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Many doctors think that lack of infections causes wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath called asthma, an itchy skin rash primarily on the front of the elbows and back of knees called atopic dermatitis or eczema, and itchy eyes and sneezing during the spring and fall pollen seasons, called allergic rhinitis. An article in the British medical journal, Lancet, shows that giving intestinal bacteria called lactobacillus to pregnant women helps to prevent asthma, allergic rhinitis and eczema.

Your intestines are filled with trillions of bacteria. It is fine for them to be inside your intestines, but they are not supposed to be able to get into your bloodstream because your excellent immune system, composed of white blood cells and proteins, attacks and kills all germs as they try to enter your bloodstream. First, germs try to enter your bloodstream, causing your body to produce white blood cells and antibodies that attach to and kill these germs. These antibodies are specific to each germ, so you build up a backlog of antibodies throughout your entire life and these antibodies are supposed to lie in your bloodstream and when they see the germ a second time, they are supposed to kill them right away before they can grow in your bloodstream. For example, when you are given a polio vaccine made up of live polio viruses that are too weak to paralyze you, you are immune for the rest of your life. Your antibodies against polio lie waiting to kill any polio virus that may enter your bloodstream. What would happen if you didn't get infections? Then you have not trained your white blood cells and antibodies to attack germs.

In this week's Lancet, researchers at the University of Turku in Finland fed the common intestinal bacteria, Lactobacillus, to pregnant women who had a strong family history of allergies. The babies produced huge amounts of IGA antibodies that are normally produced by the intestines to kill bacteria there. And most exciting of all, the babies of the mothers who were given lactobacillus had less than half the incidence of allergic diseases such as asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis. If further studies confirm this one, we will finally prove that allergies are caused by an immune system that has "nothing to do syndrome", so it goes out and attacks non-germs such as pollen, dust, dog dander and mold. If allergic women are given safe bacteria, called probiotics, when they are pregnant, their babies' immune systems have something to do and go to work learning how to kill germs. If they have nothing to do, they go out and kill every particle that gets into a child's respiratory system and intestines. We hope they are right.

Lancet, April 7, 2001

Checked 8/9/05

June 1st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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