Antibacterials and Asthma

By Dr. Emmett Blahnik

60 million Americans suffer from asthma, more than the people afflicted with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s combined, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. 1

Every day in the US, 40,000 people miss school or work because of asthma. 1 Already the most common chronic condition in children, it’s quickly rising among all age, sex and racial groups. 1

Although in some cases, there seems to be a familial link, most cases of asthma are from unknown causes, says the EPA. 2 Environmental triggers of asthma include: air pollution, cockroaches, dust mites, mold, pets and tobacco smoke. 2

In 2000, Dr.Stuart Levy of Tufts University spoke about research concerning antibacterials and asthma at the Emerging Infectious Diseases Conference. 3 He claimed that the rate of asthma cases could be correlated to the proliferation of antibacterial products, which grew from a few dozen in the 1990’s to more than 700 by 2000. 3

Not only does this antibacterial prevalence liken the risk that bacteria will become resistant, he believes that they alter the bacterial content of people’s digestive systems, killing “good” bacteria and triggering a proliferation of “bad.” 3 This triggers the immune system and inflammation.

Children are born with highly reactive immune system cells: they’re raring to go and ready for anything. 3 Exposure to bacteria and other invaders transforms some of these cells so that they become specifically geared to recognize and fight that antigen (become antibodies.) 3 Over time most of these highly reactive cells become paired up with specific invaders and calm down. 3

The use of antibiotics in infants and young children, and the limited exposure they have to potential antigens because of antibacterial overuse means that their immune systems never mature. 3 The cells never become specialized or calm down. 3 They react to everything they encounter as if it was a mortal threat. 3 This cell reaction and rush of forces causes inflammation in the airways and throughout the body. 3

The “hygiene hypothesis” seems to hold validity. Scientists have found, for instance, that farm kids are much less likely to develop asthma and other allergic conditions than people who lived in cities and suburbs. 3

The researchers found that “hygiene and a westernized, semi-sterile diet may facilitate atopy (an allergic response) by influencing the overall pattern of commensals and pathogens that stimulate gut-associated lymphoid tissue,” and concluded that “antigenically rich (dirty) environment may be essential for normal immune maturation preventing atopic disease.” 3

Levy points out that greater use of antibacterials has never been proven to reduce health risks but this overuse may increase risks. We live in world teeming with bacteria, he says, and it isn’t helpful to think we can eradicate them all or that they are the invaders. We live in their world: it’s not that they live in ours. Let your kids get dirty and lighten your toxin load by using less antibacterial products.

Dr. Blahnik steps, if I were you….

  • Healthy Nerve System Function: Spinal Corrective Care Chiropractic (this is not pain management Chiropractic) adjustments remove pressure from the nervous system, allowing the body to function at a higher level.
  • Follow the Anti-Inflammatory Eating Plan.
  • Allow your kids to get a little dirty
  • Allow the 3 second rule for food dropped on the floor…actually make it 5 seconds.


  1. AAFA (2010). Asthma Facts and Figures. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America [online]. Retrieved from http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=8⊂=42
  2. EPA (2010, March). Asthma Prevalence. United States Environmental Protection Agency [online]. Retrieved from http://cfpub.epa.gov/eroe/index.cfm?fuseaction=detail.viewInd&lv=list.listByAlpha&r=201583&subtop=381
  3. Levy, Stuart B. (2000). Antibacterial Household Products: Cause for Concern. Emerging Infectious Diseases Conference 2000 [online]. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol7no3_supp/levy.htm

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