Is it possible to prevent asthma and allergies?
In the last news letter we explored some of the reasons why asthma and allergies are increasing. This brings us to the next logical question: is it possible to prevent the development of asthma? Yes, it is possible!!
Can genetically determined traits be modified by proper environmental influences? For example can two short parents have a child who grows up to be tall to become a basket-ball player? To some extent, it is possible!! If there is a family history of diabetes is it possible that with proper diet control, weight regulation and exercise a person may not develop diabetes? Yes it is possible !!
Let’s come back to asthma…
Parents who have a family history of asthma or allergy are worried that their children may also have asthma. They have reason to worry; Asthma and allergies are genetic – they run in families. If one parent has asthma the chances of the child having asthma as well are 25 %. This risk increases to 50 to 60 % if both parents happen to have asthma.
It is very usual for such parents to ask the doctor what they could do to minimize the risk of their child getting asthma.
Here is a list of actions to be taken to minimize the risk of development of asthma. These are all practical and do-able things.
- Breast feeding by the mother for the first 4-6 months. The breast milk is not only good for the baby’s nutrition and immunity but also helps in steering the immune system away from allergies.
- No cigarette smoking by the parents in pregnancy and there after.
- Late introduction of allergy producing food items in the diet of the child. This would include soya, milk, peanuts, egg, rajmah daal and chana daal. What the mother eats, or does not eat, during pregnancy has been found to have no major effect on the subsequent development of asthma in the child. So no need for needless dos and don’ts for the expectant mother!
- Watch the diet of the child so that he /she do not become overweight or obese. Obesity is linked with asthma.
- We have seen that our rapid dietary changes as a society have predisposed us to have more allergy related diseases including asthma. Diet consisting of aerated drinks, fried food, junk food, processed food and food preservatives promotes allergy. These must be avoided or minimized. Diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, vitamin C and anti oxidants is considered good for preventing the development and expression of allergy.
- Avoid taking anti-biotic for common childhood infections. There infections are necessary for the proper maturation of the immune system and provide a lifelong direction for the immune system to react only to the germs and not to harmless things like pollens and dust etc.
- Cleanliness in childhood is of course necessary but the mother should not be obsessed with overly hygienic living. This too does not allow the immune system to be active and develop and mature normally.
- Minimizing childhood exposure to house dust has been tried but with mixed success rate.
- Allergen Immunotherapy (allergy vaccine or allergy shots) is the only scientifically proven therapy that has been shown to prevent the development of asthma in patients with allergic rhinitis. It can also reverse asthma. It is effective even years after stopping the injections. But immunotherapy is not predictably or equally effective in all patients.
- Stressful lifestyle impacts all types of diseases. Asthma and allergy are no exception. Our modern medicine does not fully appreciate this fact although allopaths are now waking up to the reality of the Mind-Body connection.
So the overall news is good! People who are prone to allergies due to their genetic make up or family tendency can be optimistic and take active steps to minimize the expression of that tendency.