Bring on the Bugs?

Think that keeping your children’s hands and mouths clean is helping them stay healthy?  Think again!  New research from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center reveals that exposure to common antibacterials found in soap, toothpaste, mouthwash and other personal-care products may make children more prone to a wide range of food and environmental allergies.

Using existing data from a national health survey of 860 children aged 6-18, the researchers examined the relationship between the children’s urinary levels of antibacterials and preservatives found in many personal-hygiene products and the presence of IgE antibodies in the child’s blood. IgE are markedly elevated in people with allergies.

We saw a link between level of exposure, measured by the amount of antimicrobial agents in the urine, and allergy risk, indicated by circulating antibodies to specific allergens,” said lead investigator Jessica Savage, M.D., M.H.S., an allergy and immunology fellow at Hopkins.

While antibacterials and preservatives themselves don’t cause allergies, that these agents appear to play a role in immune system development.

The link between allergy risk and antimicrobial exposure suggests that these agents may disrupt the delicate balance between beneficial and bad bacteria in the body and lead to immune system dysregulation, which in turn raises the risk of allergies,” Savage added.

In the study, those with the highest urine levels of triclosan – an antibacterial agent used in soaps, mouthwash and toothpaste – had the highest levels of IgE antibodies and their risk for food allergy risk was twice that of children with the lowest triclosan levels. Similarly, children with the highest urinary levels of parabens – preservatives with antimicrobial properties used in cosmetics, food and medications – were more likely to have detectable levels of IgE antibodies and twice the risk of environmental allergens such as pollen and pet dander.

These findings are consistent with the so-called hygiene hypothesis, which has recently gained traction as one possible explanation behind the growing rates of food and environmental allergies in the developed world. The hypothesis suggests that early childhood exposure to common pathogens is essential in building healthy immune responses. Lack of such exposure, can lead to an overactive immune system that misfires against harmless substances such as food proteins, pollen or pet dander.

Just  this week, other new research from the University of California, San Francisco has provided some answers to why children who grow up in homes with pets are less likely to develop allergies.

All of which suggests that parents should put away the hand sanitizer and let their kids play in the dirt with a dog!

Battling Broccoli

If you’re a parent, you’ve more than likely experienced your little darlings crisis and tantrums at the dinner table. And you’ve probably asked yourself, more than once, “why won’t my kids eat their vegetables?”

Perhaps you were once one of those kids yourself.  I know I was!  My mother is still baffled how years later her child who would rather go hungry than eat a single green thing, became a strict vegetarian.

Maybe now I can give her an answer.  Research has found that about more than two thirds of children have sensitivity to bitterness. Dislike of the bitterness may stem from the TAS2R38 gene, which influences how we perceive bitter tastes.

The  study, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that 70% of kids tested were bitter-sensitive, meaning bitter foods, such as broccoli and cucumber, can have a very unpleasant taste to them.

The study did provide some hope, though: Bitter-sensitive kids who were offered ranch dip with their greens, ate 8% percent more vegetables than kids who weren’t given the dip. The findings held true regardless of the fat content of the dip, with kids consuming as many vegetables with low-fat ranch dressing as they did with a full fat version.  At the end of the 7 week study, the number of children who said broccoli tasted “yummy” also increased by 18 percent.

I’ve never met a parent who’s not familiar with the daily struggle to get their kids to eat better,” said veggie expert and registered dietitian Jodie Shield. “It’s helpful for parents to know that there is a reason why their kids might not eat vegetables and exciting to see that simple actions like offering a dip can have a profound difference in a child’s eating habits.”

So what if your kids don’t like ranch dressing either?  Don’t fear, SRxA’s Word on Health has a number of other viable veggie solutions!

  • Grow Your Own: Children love to plant things and watch them grow.  Besides, home-grown veggies taste so much better
  • Get Your Kids Involved in the Process:  children who help to prepare and cook their own food are more likely to eat those foods and even ask for seconds
  • Making Veggie’s Fun: Teach your kids about vegetables. Make up stories about Peter the pea and Charlie the cucumber. Make veggies their friends.
  • Make Eating Fun: Get creative with serving and decorating their plates. Making veggies part of a familiar shape such as a smiley face or an animal, will get them eating in no time

For more great ideas why not check out

Pine Powder Puts an End to Sneezing

According to researchers at the University of Gothenburg, the end may be in sight for allergy sufferers.  Patients plagued by the misery of seasonal allergic rhinitis, better known as hay fever, can be cured, thanks to a powder derived from pine trees.

Cellulose nasal sprays like Nasaleze and Nasal Ease, have been on the market for years, but there wasn’t scientific evidence they worked – until now.

Now in this latest study, scientists found that the pine tree powder forms a barrier on the mucous membrane when puffed into the nose, filtering out allergens such as tree and flower pollen.

The cellulose powder has no adverse effects, and this fact makes it a particularly attractive treatment for children,” said study author Dr. Nils Aberg, Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics.

The double blind, placebo-controlled  study, was carried out during the birch pollen season and involved 53 children and adolescents aged 8 – 18 years with allergies to pollen. Participants puffed the pine-tree derived cellulose powder in the nose three times daily for four weeks. They also took a daily dose of an oral antihistamine.
Pollen levels were measured every day and were subsequently analyzed in relation to the symptoms reported by the children. Patients or their parents were reminded to report their symptom scores using daily SMS messages sent to their mobile phones.
Results showed a statistically significant reduction in total symptom scores from the nose.  Further data for the study, published in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, came from past unpublished statistics of pollen levels collected for 31 years at the same location in Gothenburg, from 1979 to 2009.

Dr. Aberg added: “We showed that the nasal symptoms of the children were significantly reduced in those who used the cellulose powder. The best effect was obtained at low to moderate concentrations of pollen”.

Word on Health asked leading allergist, Dr. Bill Storms for his reaction to this study.  He told us, “It appears that the  waxy coat of the pine tree pollen might line the inside of the nose after sniffing it and  this might prevent other pollens from getting into the mucus membranes. However, I note that patients were asked to do this three times a day and I’m not sure how many will do this.  I also wonder if there are any long term effects of putting cellulose in the nose.”

As we’ve said so many times before, further studies are needed.