The neonatal period is a critical time with regards to priming the gut for allergic disease. After birth the intestinal barriers and immunoregulatory networks are poorly developed and the post-natal period is a time for the normal commensal microbial flora to develop. The timing and dose of dietary antigens is imperative in this development. The mucosae are bombarded immediately after birth by a large variety of microorganisms as well as protein antigens from the environment. The mucosal surface is huge, 200 times the surface of the skin. There are two arms of the mucosal immune system to develop, IgA and IgM, both are antibodies to modulate or inhibit the colonization of microorganisms and decrease the ability of dangerous agents to get into the mucosal layers. The IgM is called the oral tolerance; this is induced via the gut against dietary antigens and helps to explain why there are persistent food allergies or sensitivities when this is triggered again and again.
The optimal mucosal barrier in the neonatal period depends on adequate supply of the breast milk particularly in relation to mucosal infections and also plays a significant role in protecting against hypersensitivity reactions to food. Antibodies to various dietary antigens, such as cow’s milk proteins and gluten are also present in breast milk. There are an ever-increasing number of children that have sensitivities to gluten and casein. By this research we can conclude that a breast fed infant will receive secretary antibodies directed against the microflora initially colonizing its mucosae and therefore be better protected both in the gut and upper airways.
If your child is now suffering with poor intestinal microflora the introduction of probiotics will help build the microflora. It has been shown that children with atopic eczema can have a 50% reduction by the age of two years when receiving the probiotic strain lactobacillus.
I will continue with more information on this later this month, stay tuned…