Do you have allergies? Are there certain triggers that can make your allergy symptoms worse? One of the things to consider when it comes to managing your allergies is what you’re eating. From dairy products, to legumes and nuts, and even some vegetables – all these foods can cause allergic reactions in many people. Every person will react differently so it’s important to keep track of how specific items affect you. In this blog post, we’ll explore how different types of food can trigger or reduce allergic reactions in individuals with allergies.
It turns out one way to protect babies from developing bad allergies in life is to give them breast milk from Mennonite mothers who grew up on farms. Yes, that’s for real: a new (peer reviewed!) study published in Frontiers in Immunology found that breast milk from Mennonite moms has a greater abundance in the type of antibodies and other immune systems components that protect babies from common allergies.
“Our findings indicate that that breast milk from old order Mennonite mothers contains higher levels of beneficial antibodies, microbes and metabolites that help to ‘program’ the developing gut microbiota and immune system of their babies,” study coauthor Antti Seppo from the University of Rochester said in a statement. “These may protect infants against developing allergic diseases.”
What prompted the study? Allergy rates in Western societies have exploded in the early 20th century. One theory explaining this phenomenon argues that lately people have adopted cleaner and more sedentary lives that leave them less exposed to the outside world, which means the immune system is unable to prime itself to co-exist with a lot of foreign substances. A lot of immunity during infancy is passed down from mother to child via breast milk—so over several generations, that breast milk would contain fewer antibodies that tell the body certain airborne dust and certain foods are actually safe.
Mennonite mothers, on the other hand, live very traditional one-family farming lives with little modern technology. They are constantly exposed to pollen and animal dander, unpasteurized milk and other dairy products, and livestock. The research team compared the breast milk of 52 Mennonite women living in Western New York to 29 urban and suburban women living around the city of Rochester. Not only did Mennonite breast milk contain more allergy-associated antibodies, but it also contained a greater diversity of milk microbes that bolster the developing gut microbiota of babies.
The main takeaway here is that it might be good to get outside and touch some grass, at least for your future children’s sake. It is not suggesting you go out and find some Mennonite breast milk.
Seppo AE, Bu K, Jumabaeva M, Thakar J, Choudhury RA, Yonemitsu C, Bode L, Martina CA, Allen M, Tamburini S, Piras E, Wallach DS, Looney RJ, Clemente JC, Järvinen KM. Infant gut microbiome is enriched with Bifidobacterium longum ssp. infantis in Old Order Mennonites with traditional farming lifestyle. Allergy. 2021 Nov;76(11):3489-3503. doi: 10.1111/all.14877. Epub 2021 May 14. PMID: 33905556.
The prevalence of allergic diseases and asthma is increasing rapidly worldwide, with environmental and lifestyle behaviors implicated as a reason. Epidemiological studies have shown that children who grow up on farms are at lower risk of developing childhood atopic disease, indicating the presence of a protective “farm effect”. The Old Order Mennonite (OOM) community in Upstate New York have traditional, agrarian lifestyles, a low rate of atopic disease, and long periods of exclusive breastfeeding. Human milk proteins are heavily glycosylated, although there is a paucity of studies investigating the milk glycoproteome. In this study, we have used quantitative glycoproteomics to compare the N-glycoprotein profiles of 54 milk samples from Rochester urban/suburban and OOM mothers, two populations with different lifestyles, exposures, and risk of atopic disease. We also compared N-glycoprotein profiles according to the presence or absence of atopic disease in the mothers and, separately, the children. We identified 79 N-glycopeptides from 15 different proteins and found that proteins including immunoglobulin A1, polymeric immunoglobulin receptor, and lactotransferrin displayed significant glycan heterogeneity. We found that the abundances of 38 glycopeptides differed significantly between Rochester and OOM mothers and also identified four glycopeptides with significantly different abundances between all comparisons. These four glycopeptides may be associated with the development of atopic disease. The findings of this study suggest that the differential glycosylation of milk proteins could be linked to atopic disease.
Holm M, Saraswat M, Joenväärä S, Seppo A, Looney RJ, Tohmola T, Renkonen J, Renkonen R, Järvinen KM. Quantitative glycoproteomics of human milk and association with atopic disease. PLoS One. 2022 May 13;17(5):e0267967. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0267967. PMID: 35559953; PMCID: PMC9106177.
Background: Growing up on traditional, single-family farms is associated with protection against asthma in school age, but the mechanisms against early manifestations of atopic disease are largely unknown. We sought determine the gut microbiome and metabolome composition in rural Old Order Mennonite (OOM) infants at low risk and Rochester, NY urban/suburban infants at high risk for atopic diseases.
Methods: In a cohort of 65 OOM and 39 Rochester mother-infant pairs, 101 infant stool and 61 human milk samples were assessed by 16S rRNA gene sequencing for microbiome composition and qPCR to quantify Bifidobacterium spp. and B. longum ssp. infantis (B. infantis), a consumer of human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs). Fatty acids (FAs) were analyzed in 34 stool and human 24 milk samples. Diagnoses and symptoms of atopic diseases by 3 years of age were assessed by telephone.
Results: At a median age of 2 months, stool was enriched with Bifidobacteriaceae, Clostridiaceae, and Aerococcaceae in the OOM compared with Rochester infants. B. infantis was more abundant (p < .001) and prevalent, detected in 70% of OOM compared with 21% of Rochester infants (p < .001). Stool colonized with B. infantis had higher levels of lactate and several medium- to long/odd-chain FAs. In contrast, paired human milk was enriched with a distinct set of FAs including butyrate. Atopic diseases were reported in 6.5% of OOM and 35% of Rochester children (p < .001).
Conclusion: A high rate of B. infantis colonization, similar to that seen in developing countries, is found in the OOM at low risk for atopic diseases.
Seppo AE, Choudhury R, Pizzarello C, Palli R, Fridy S, Rajani PS, Stern J, Martina C, Yonemitsu C, Bode L, Bu K, Tamburini S, Piras E, Wallach DS, Allen M, Looney RJ, Clemente JC, Thakar J, Järvinen KM. Traditional Farming Lifestyle in Old Older Mennonites Modulates Human Milk Composition. Front Immunol. 2021 Oct 11;12:741513. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.741513. PMID: 34707611; PMCID: PMC8545059.
Background: In addition to farming exposures in childhood, maternal farming exposures provide strong protection against allergic disease in their children; however, the effect of farming lifestyle on human milk (HM) composition is unknown.
Objective: This study aims to characterize the maternal immune effects of Old Order Mennonite (OOM) traditional farming lifestyle when compared with Rochester (ROC) families at higher risk for asthma and allergic diseases using HM as a proxy.
Methods: HM samples collected at median 2 months of lactation from 52 OOM and 29 ROC mothers were assayed for IgA1 and IgA2 antibodies, cytokines, endotoxin, HM oligosaccharides (HMOs), and targeted fatty acid (FA) metabolites. Development of early childhood atopic diseases in children by 3 years of age was assessed. In addition to group comparisons, systems level network analysis was performed to identify communities of multiple HM factors in ROC and OOM lifestyle.
Results: HM contains IgA1 and IgA2 antibodies broadly recognizing food, inhalant, and bacterial antigens. OOM HM has significantly higher levels of IgA to peanut, ovalbumin, dust mites, and Streptococcus equii as well TGF-β2, and IFN-λ3. A strong correlation occurred between maternal antibiotic use and levels of several HMOs. Path-based analysis of HMOs shows lower activity in the path involving lactoneohexaose (LNH) in the OOM as well as higher levels of lacto-N-neotetraose (LNnT) and two long-chain FAs C-18OH (stearic acid) and C-23OH (tricosanoic acid) compared with Rochester HM. OOM and Rochester milk formed five different clusters, e.g., butyrate production was associated with Prevotellaceae, Veillonellaceae, and Micrococcaceae cluster. Development of atopic disease in early childhood was more common in Rochester and associated with lower levels of total IgA, IgA2 to dust mite, as well as of TSLP.
Conclusion: Traditional, agrarian lifestyle, and antibiotic use are strong regulators of maternally derived immune and metabolic factors, which may have downstream implications for postnatal developmental programming of infant’s gut microbiome and immune system.
The food we eat can change the way our body reacts to form allergies. Our western culture is almost too clean, and this leads to changes in our microbiome that favors the development of allergies. There is research demonstrating that subcultures within the United States have very different breast feeding habits during infancy that actually decrease the incidence of allergy in that population. You can remember that probiotics are a good way to prevent allergies and please pay attention to your food–you are what you eat!