The Link between Intestinal Health and Childhood Asthma

By Marcie Vaske, MS, LN
August 4, 2015


Think of the last time your child had an asthma attack, did you feel fear? Did you see the fear in his/her eyes? What if there were a way to decrease or eliminate these frightening experiences? Would you be on board?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, seven million children have asthma in the United States. Startling? How about this; asthma is one of the most common chronic disorders in childhood and the third leading cause of hospitalization in children under the age of 15. What is causing this condition to soar in recent years? I did some digging, and this is what I found.

Getting to the root cause of asthma

Many people believe that asthma is due to a genetic cause or environmental factors, but new research indicates that the health of the intestinal tract plays a role. Normally, the intestinal tract contains sufficient healthy bacteria, but when it doesn’t many conditions and symptoms can occur. One such condition is asthma. You may be asking yourself, how is gut health related to asthma and lung function? Often it starts when children are given antibiotics for ear infections, strep throat or other bacterial infections.

ChildhoodAsthma_BoyWithPainfulEars.jpgNearly half of childhood doctor visits are for a diagnosis of ear infections, and often children are given a broad-spectrum antibiotic. Many times young children have recurring ear infections which lead to repeated rounds of antibiotics. Antibiotics kill the good flora or bacteria in the intestinal tract, which is needed to keep the immune system strong. If a child has had several rounds of antibiotics, trillions of good bacteria are killed. When the intestinal tract loses good bacteria, the lining in the gut can become porous over time.

With decreased gut function, trouble begins. Environmental toxins, undigested food particles, and microbes, all of which should not make their way into our blood stream, do. Where do they go once they have found their way through the intestinal tract and into the blood stream? Some make their way to the liver and others to the lungs. For children with asthma, toxins reach their bronchi. The accumulation of too many toxins can slowly begin to deteriorate the bronchi and cause damage. So, what does the body do? The bronchi shuts down for repair, and the child develops the symptom of wheezing.

My child is suffering with asthma, what can I do?

ChildhoodAsthma_SugaryFoodsToAvoid.jpgAt Nutritional Weight & Wellness we look for the root cause of conditions and disease. In the case of a child with asthma, intestinal health may need to be improved by replenishing the beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract. Also, we know that decreasing sugar in your child’s diet is important to reduce inflammation.

  1. Introduce a probiotic: At Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we recommend adding bifido bacteria twice a day before meals.
  2. Decrease sugar consumption: Eliminating soda, energy drinks, juices, and processed foods (like cookies, macaroni and cheese, Pop-tarts, Yoplait yogurt, goldfish crackers). Are you seeing the picture? This will do wonders for your child’s gut health. Sugar causes inflammation and also can cause bad bacteria to grow.

Asthma is a complex condition, and meeting with a nutritionist at Nutritional Weight & Wellness can be helpful for formulating a plan for your child. Nutrition has an important role in managing asthma symptoms. As a nutritionist, I would be honored to work with you and your family.

Call 651-699-3438 to learn more or to schedule an appointment.

For more information on this topic, listen to our August 1, 2015 podcast: Is Asthma Sidelining You?

References: Ngoc P. Ly, MD, MPH & Litonjua, A. MD, MPH, et al.  Gut Microbiota, Probiotics and Vitamin D: Interrelated Exposures Influencing Allergy, Asthma, and Obesity.  J Allergy CLin Immunol 2011 May: 127(5): 1087-1094 Asthma, 2014 Asthma & Children Fact Sheet. 2014 Asthma. Clinical Binder, Nutritional Weight & Wellness.


About the author

Marcie truly understands the healing power of nutrition having once suffered from anorexia, obsessive-compulsive exercising and anxiety, all of which led to chronic and complex digestive issues for her. She credits good nutrition in playing a critical role in her recovery from anorexia, diminishing anxiety, and helping to heal her digestive tract. She joined Nutritional Weight & Wellness in 2011, completed her M.S. in clinical nutrition from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, and is a licensed nutritionist through the Minnesota Board of Dietetics and Nutrition.

View all posts by Marcie Vaske, MS, LN

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