The Connection Between Gut Health and Food Allergies
All of your bodily functions influence each other. Your gut health and the bacteria in your gut (aka your microbiome) has a large role to play in how your immune system reacts to food.
Let’s talk a little bit more about what the microbiome is and what it’s connection is to the risk of developing food allergies.
What is the Microbiome?
The human body is actually an ecosystem with lots of bacteria, viruses, and fungi living on our skin and in our gut. Collectively, these microbes are called our microbiome. The way human beings lived didn’t change much for thousands of years, and the microbes that lived with us also stayed the same.
You cannot live well without these microbes. They digest your food, repair your skin, fight infections, and produce critical vitamins.
There are specific species that like to live on your skin where it’s oily or where it’s dark (under your arms). There are species that love to bathe in your stomach acid and are cozy into your stomach. And there are species that like to eat what you eat.
If you eat a lot of diverse vegetables and fruits, you will end up with different bacteria in your intestines than someone who only eats bread. If you scrub your skin with salicylic acid every day, you will have different bacteria than someone who only uses water.
Your microbiome is like a paint-by-number drawing. A paint-by-number drawing with the wrong colors is still art, but it’s probably not pretty.
If your microbiome is made up of the right species, painted in the right places, you are less likely to have eczema, food allergies and asthma. If your microbiome is made of the wrong species or the right species painted in the wrong places, you end up with dry cracked skin, bad digestion, leaky gut, asthma, and worse.
How Does Your Microbiome Relate to Food Allergies?
Your microbiome is a major part of how your immune system decides whether to be hyperactive or stay calm. An immune system that is hyperactive is the underlying cause of allergies.
When scientists look at samples from people with Crohn's disease, dairy allergies, peanut allergies, eczema, etc., and compare the bacteria in those samples to healthy people without issues, they find big differences.
There isn’t one perfect microbiome that protects against all disease. But in general, a healthier gut microbiome has many different bacteria strains and it has to have some specific strains. In the gut, these strains eat the food that you eat and actually create the mucus that coats your intestines to make them strong.
What is Leaky Gut?
Leaky gut is a condition where your intestinal tract gets thin and weak because it is missing the good mucus. As food makes its way through a leaky intestine some stuff will leak out of the intestines.
Your immune system is designed to watch out for something breaking through your intestine because that could make you very sick.
If you have a leaky gut things are constantly leaking through. Your immune system is going to go berserk and become hyperactive. And a hyperactive immune system is prone to make mistakes like deciding food is dangerous.
How Do You Build a Healthy Microbiome?
The most critical time to build the right -- or wrong -- microbiome is during pregnancy, delivery, and the first few months of infancy.
Your microbiome is born with you. When a baby is born and passes through the birth canal, he picks up a coating of bacteria all over his skin and in his stomach from the fluid he sucks in with the first cry.
Good bacteria is given to a baby through the process of breastfeeding, skin to skin exposure, and from the mother’s saliva. After a baby starts eating solid foods, their microbiome changes. Babies who eat a diverse diet, with no sugar, and lots of vegetables and fruits build the healthiest microbiomes and are the least likely to end up with allergies.
The microbiome can easily get messed up by overuse of antibiotics, because antibiotics kill all bacteria in your body, not just the ones causing an ear infection.
Breastfeed if you can, feed your baby many different vegetables with no sugar, and do not give them antibiotics for every cold - limit antibiotics to only when it’s necessary.
Diet Diversity and Early Allergen Introduction
Early, regular feedings of nuts and eggs can help reduce your child’s risk of developing allergies by training your baby’s body to recognize and tolerate certain foods. And new research shows that the more different foods a baby eats, the more calm their immune system stays. By adding 6 foods into a baby’s diet every week, Lil Mixins’ Infant Powders allow parents to increase diet diversity and safely introduce common allergenic foods to babies as early as 4 months.