ORLANDO, Fla. - About one in every 12 kids suffers from asthma. It's the leading chronic disease in children and the top reason for missed school days, but what if there were a way to protect kids from this all-too-common condition?
A new study found children who grow up on a farm are less likely to develop asthma, and the reason? Their guts.
"The gut communicates with the brain basically through an organ, basically, called the microbiome," said Bruce Stevens, a professor at the University of Florida.
Researchers found children living on a farm are exposed to environmental factors that boost their gut microbiome. When scientists analyzed fecal samples, farm kids had more of the "good" types of gut bacteria that may protect them against asthma.
"Basically, there's a chemical warfare that occurs between the good and the bad guy bacteria," Stevens continued.
Breastfeeding may also be a way to boost "good guy" bacteria in babies. Studies show breastfeeding is linked to lower rates of allergies, obesity, and more diseases. Some other general ways to protect kids against asthma: limit their exposure to secondhand smoke. And if you don't live on a farm, simply getting your child a pet might help. Recent research shows early exposure to dogs and cats may have a protective effect when it comes to allergies and asthma.
Other ways to increase good gut bacteria include eating plenty of vegetables, legumes, beans, and fruit. Fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut might also give your gut a boost.