According to Australian National Health surveys, the rates of asthma have gone from 3.3% in 1983 to 8.3% in 1989 to about 10% in 2008; similar to what it is now.
Research that has tracked the rise in asthma in the United Kingdom found few reports of asthma in kids before the 1960s.
From the 1960s onwards, asthma reports steadily increased not only in the UK but also Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
So why the increase in asthma?
Allergies, in general, have increased over the last couple of decades.
There has been much speculation as to what has driven this increase and there have been a number of factors put forward as suggested contributors. Some may have played a minor role and some a bigger role.
Essentially, there were some big changes in the way we live leading up to the 1960s.
1. Does more time indoors contribute to more asthma?
From 1955 onwards, there was an increase in the how much time kids spend inside particularly because of the boom in television shows for kids.
More time watching television meant less time playing outdoors.
Less time playing outdoors meant less physical activity and exposure to the natural environment.
We know that physical activity boosts health in a number of ways.
Physical activity improves lung health by exe rising those lungs, forcing them into full expansion and promoting more resilience. Some research shows that watching television promotes shallow breathing and poorer lung capacity which may contribute to less resilience and greater reactivity to allergens. This makes children more susceptible to asthma.
Physical activity also supports healthy weight and being overweight or obese puts kids at a higher risk of developing asthma.
Playing outdoors is also how we get good doses of daily vitamin D. Vitamin D plays a really big role in regulating the immune system which means keeping immune responses appropriate and balanced so that we don’t develop allergic tendencies or have inflammation continue unchecked.
2. Are there changes in what microbes our kids are exposed to?
Playing outdoors in nature exposes our kids to a plethora of microbes. It is this exposure to microbes that trains our kids’ immune systems to differentiate friend from foe. Children exposed to a greater amount of time in various outdoor environments develop a more diverse collection of microbes that live in their guts, lungs and on their skin that is associated with better health and stronger immune systems.
A move towards more time spent indoors meant changes to the types of microbes our kids were exposed to on a daily basis. House dust mites were reported as a major contributor to the increased incidence of asthma during the 1960s and 70s.
With more time indoors, homes were built with increasing comfort in mind. There was more carpet and furnishings- havens for dust mites. There was a focus on increasing temperature for comfort in the colder months which meant homes were built to reduce drafts- closed-off homes meant less ventilation and a recirculation of indoor pollutants and allergens. Less ventilated homes in the warmer months meant a perfect breeding ground for dust mites and a greater risk of mould.
Broad-spectrum antibiotics became prevalent from 1965. Even one exposure to a course of antibiotics is enough to throw the balance out in the gut bug environment and allow for potential bad guys to set up shop and wreak havoc on a child’s health.
The number of immunisations a child receives in the first two years of their life has dramatically increased from 1975. Children were once given only a single shot at each visit but by the 1990s were receiving more than one shot at each visit and each shot contained an average of five doses. Immunisation is a touchy topic and I am not stating I am for or against. I do think we need to consider what long term effects this number of immunisations have on our child’s health and remember that no two children are the same in the way they handle these.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) became a commonly prescribed medication for infants presenting with signs and symptoms of reflux in the early 2000s. PPIs buffer stomach acid to provide relief from reflux but are rarely the answer in addressing infants in distress. PPI use does come with unfavourable effects by disrupting optimal digestion and protection from unfriendly microbes thus setting up a gut environment prone to inflammation and sensitivity. This is all during a critical phase an infant’s gut goes through to mature in a healthy way.
So, essentially, is the rise in these medications and immunisations a contributing factor in skewing our child’s immune system towards allergenic tendencies and risk of developing asthma?
Want to know more?
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the airways. The airways narrow in response to triggers that are normally considered harmless in those with normal healthy lungs. Muscles in the airways go into spasm, the airway walls become inflamed and release a sticky thick mucus making it harder for air to come in and out.
We do understand that secure barriers, that is the walls that divides the outside to the inside, play a very important role. These walls are the linings that cover our airways and gut. These linings are covered in microbes that when in balance, do everything they can to keep us healthy. When not in balance and in the presence of unfavourable bugs and toxins, inflammation ensues and the wall the beneficial microbes are protecting breaks down. Compromised walls puts the immune system on high alert and unresolved can lead to that skew towards allergic tendencies.
I mention the gut because the gut has an ability to influence the health of the lungs via signals coming from gut microbes and gut immune cells. When we have a compromised gut, there can be systemic complications. Inflammation in the gut can lead to a pro-inflammatory tendency in the lung walls contributing to the asthma picture.
As you can see, supporting your child from the inside out is a very important part of improving their asthma. Are you ready to see how? Get in contact with use today so we can put a plan together for your child.