Is your little one at risk of developing allergies? If you or your partner have suffered from eczema (aka atopic dermatitis or AD), you may already know that your child’s risk of developing allergies is 2–4 times higher. But don’t despair! In fact, eczema or atopic dermatitis affects 1 of 5 school children in Singapore. However, with optimised early life nutrition, it may be possible to build up you’re his gut defense to reduce eczema risk so that your child continues to be comfortable whilst playing and learning as he grows.
Early life allergic reactions 101
- Allergies occur when the immune system (70% of which resides in the gut!) reacts to an “allergen” such as dust or food. Allergies can manifest as tummy troubles like diarrhea, skin conditions like eczema, respiratory issues like allergic rhinitis or sometimes, even a combination. As a result, tiny tots may have symptoms such as loose stools, sneezing, itching, hives, shortness of breath etc.
- Eczema is a skin condition that results in severe itching, redness, oozing, and scaly rashes. Allergy plays a role in some children’s’ eczema. 8 in 10 children with eczema develop asthma and/or allergic rhinitis later in childhood.
What does the gut have to do with it? (gut defence to allergies)
Your little one’s gut is host to trillions of microbes, called the ‘microbiome’. While some may be bad bugs, there is also a large number ‘good’ bacteria (probiotics) – the gut’s mighty, hardworking army. The number and types of bugs in the microbiome as well as when they establish themselves in the gut may influence your child’s risk of allergies including eczema.
Understanding how this good bacteria army works to influence its functioning well is critical:
Strengthens the gut lining/ wall
The ‘good’ gut bacteria develop and maintain the gut lining cells which serves as the first line of defense. Breakdown in this lining may lead to higher risk of allergic reactions to food ingredients eg. whole milk proteins.
Multiplies and matures the Immune cells
70% of the immune system cells are found in the gut wall. The ‘good bacteria’ army of probiotics interacts with these immune cells to help them mature and respond normally to potential allergens.
Releases beneficial substances that could inhibit allergic reactions
The interaction between the good gut bacteria and immune cells also releases substances that bind allergens in the gut and prevent uptake as well as modify the way immune cells behave to reduce allergy prone reactions.
Reduce allergy risk: What you can do!
Feed the ‘good’ bacteria in your little one’s gut with preferred ‘fuels’ such as prebiotic fibres and 2’-FL/ FOS/GOS or top up with more ‘good bacteria’ or probitoics to help establish a ‘healthy microbiome’ early for him to be less prone to future allergies.
It is good to note that 2’-FL per se has also been scientifically shown to be associated with fewer reports of eczema in children. For even greater risk reduction, top off the feeding regime with gentle and small broken-down protein molecules via 100% partially hydrolysed whey to reduce the risk of allergic reactions.
Your child may grow up to enjoy eczema-free comfortable days to play, grow, learn and thrive.
- Mei-Yen Yong A, Tay YK. Atopic Dermatitis: Racial and Ethnic Differences. Dermatol Clin. 2017 Jul;35(3):395-402
- Botteman MF, Bhanegaonkar AJ, Horodniceanu EG, Ji X, Lee BW, Shek LP, Van Bever HP, Detzel P. Economic value of using partially hydrolysed infant formula for risk reduction of atopic dermatitis in high-risk, not exclusively breastfed infants in Singapore. Singapore Med J. 2018 Aug;59(8):439-448.
- Prince BT, Mandel MJ, Nadeau K, Singh AM. Gut Microbiome and the Development of Food Allergy and Allergic Disease. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2015;62(6):1479-1492. doi:10.1016/j.pcl.2015.07.007
- Sprenger N, Odenwald H, Kukkonen AK, Kuitunen M, Savilahti E, Kunz C. FUT2-dependent breast milk oligosaccharides and allergy at 2 and 5 years of age in infants with high hereditary allergy risk. Eur J Nutr. 2017 Apr;56(3):1293-1301.
- Marriage BJ, Buck RH, Goehring KC, Oliver JS, Williams JA. Infants Fed a Lower Calorie Formula With 2’FL Show Growth and 2’FL Uptake Like Breast-Fed Infants. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2015 Dec;61(6):649-58.
- Consensus Statement. Primary Prevention of Allergy in At-Risk Infants. Cited at: https://www.ams.edu.sg/colleges/CPCHS/publications on 20 Sept 2021