Did you know that according to the CDC asthma is “a leading chronic illness among children and adolescents in the U.S.”? It is also one of the leading causes of children missing school. From 2001 to 2010 asthma rates have increased by 7.3% in the U.S. That may not seem like much but to put it into perspective, that’s an increase of 1.87 MILLION people. This means that asthma is at an all-time high. Financially speaking, asthma costs the U.S. about $56 BILLION a year. So what causes asthma and what can we do to help?
Let’s start from the beginning.
It all starts with birth. According to a study published in Clinical and Experimental Allergy: journal of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology, babies born via C-section have a significantly higher risk of developing allergic conditions such as allergic rhino conjunctivitis, atopic dermatitis, food allergies and…you got it- ASTHMA. There are two reasons why this is. 1. Babies are not going through the vaginal canal and getting the fluids squeezed out of their lungs and activating their spines to work properly. 2. By bypassing the vaginal canal babies are missing out on getting a healthy dose of bacteria that babies who are born vaginally both get coated in and swallow. (I know-kind of gross). Yet this is super important because we are living in a society where bacteria freaks people out and makes them instantly reach for the Clorox wipes and antibacterial hand gel. We have to be aware that there are TEN TIMES more bacteria in and on your body than there are your own cells and these bacteria are VITAL to your health and survival. 70% of your immune system is in your gut. That immune system is set up in part by the swallowing of that vaginal mucous full of bacteria by babies on their way out of the birth canal. A study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology shows that by avoiding bacteria or overly cleaning everything (think Clorox wipes on shopping carts, sanitizing everything with bleach etc.) we are predisposing ourselves to asthma. The research actually shows that bacteria work to suppress the Th2 response (the part of the immune system associated with asthma) and thus, prevent asthma or asthma flare ups.
When birth is over, we have the issue of what to feed baby. I know, I know. This is not a formula shaming blog. This is just facts. A study in 2001 in the Journal of Pediatrics noted that babies who did not have at LEAST 3 months of EXCLUSIVE breastfeeding were at 2 times the risk of asthma as opposed to infants who were exclusively breastfed. Another study (a meta-analysis) in 2007 found the same results. A study performed by the European Respiratory Association in 2011 found that babies must be breastfed for SIX months in order to reduce the risk of asthma. This is again in part to establishing that immune system. Breastmilk is alive. It is full of living cells and bacteria (good stuff of course). Also, breastmilk is full of immune cells and cells that can mediate inflammation in babies.
This next contributor is not going to make me popular, but it’s important that we realize that asthma is a multi-factorial thing. Research published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics founds that children who received the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis or the tetanus vaccination in the U.S. had an increased risk of developing asthma. “The odds of having a history of asthma was twice as great among vaccinated subjects than among unvaccinated subjects.” According to www.worldallergy.org, the largest research trial involving almost 20,000 infants looked at the risk of asthma between infants vaccinated and those who were not. Their study found that hospitalization for asthma or reactive airway disease was almost double in the vaccinated group versus the unvaccinated. So why is this? Well I have my theories. Vaccines include something called adjuvants. These are added ingredients whose purpose is to cause inflammation so that the body will respond to the vaccines and produce antibodies. There are 2 components (very simplified) to your immune system, Th1 and Th2. We know that asthma and allergic diseases are associated with very high levels of Th2. This is what the vaccines target to get that antibody response as antibodies are made by the Th2 immune system. Normally we want a balance of Th1 and Th2. Vaccines elevate Th2 beyond normal levels and then we have a tendency to by Th2 dominant. Th2 dominant responses from the immune system will place at higher risk of things such as allergies and asthma.
Let’s talk about food. There are things that can help you to prevent asthma. These are good healthy fruits and vegetables, clean lean meats etc. Dairy, processed food, food additives and food dyes can all trigger more asthma attacks by producing more mucous and causing more inflammation. Remember a good rule is garbage in=garbage out.
So how does chiropractic play into all of this?? Chiropractic works on helping the body heal and function that way it was created. Not every situation in life is ideal (birth, breastfeeding etc.) and chiropractic helps that body to recover from past stresses. Your nerves control everything and we want to those to be working properly so that the organs (such as the lungs) that they control can work properly. Studies have shown that a chiropractic adjustment increases immune cell response. How awesome is that? Better immune system=healthier children and less likely to have illness related asthma flare ups. Better functioning lungs also help to regulate asthma. There are a lot of case studies on this. Check out www.icpa4kids.com to look into all of the ones posted there but I will share a few. A study published in the Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapeautics in 2002 of 36 patients aged 6-17 years of age showed that after 3 months of chiropractic care, patients with asthma reported a significantly increased quality of life and significantly decreased severity of asthma symptoms. There was a study of 81 patients with asthma under chiropractic care that reported that after 2 months of care there was significant improvement in 90% of patients. In addition, 30% of children were able to decrease their asthma medication doses by an average of 66%.
There are more things that contribute to asthma of course such as smoking or exposure to smoking, environmental factors such as pollution, animal allergies etc. All of these ramp up inflammatory responses. The ones discussed in this article are what I believe are the top contributors and what snowball the whole process. Have questions? Give a call. We’d love to sit with you and talk to you about you or your child’s health.
Dr. Paige Ward, DC