Antibiotics Can Disrupt the Gut Microbiome

Why would antibiotics, which we use to fight harmful bacteria, wind up making someone more susceptible to an allergy? While antibiotics fight infections, they also reduce the normal bacteria in our gastrointestinal system, the so-called gut microbiome.

Because of the interplay between gut bacteria and the normal equilibrium of cells of the immune system, the gut microbiome plays an important role in the maturation of the immune response. When this interaction between bacteria and immune cells does not happen, the immune system responds inappropriately to innocuous substances such as food or components of dust. This can result in the development of potentially fatal allergies.

Exposure to the microbes at an early age is important for full maturation of our immune systems. Reducing those microbes may make us feel cleaner, but our immune systems may suffer.

Do More Microbes Mean Fewer Allergies?

Research done in Europe has shown that children who grow up on farms have a wider diversity of microbes in their gut, and have up to 70% reduced prevalence of allergies and asthma compared to children who did not grow up on farms. This is because exposure to such a wide range of microbes allows our immune systems to undergo balanced maturation, thus providing protection against inappropriate immune responses.

In our attempts to prevent infections, we may be setting the stage for our children to developing life-threatening allergies and asthma.