If you follow us on social, you know we’re big fans of dogs at Allergy Amulet HQ—and one in particular: #OfficeDogMurf 😍
Studies show that dogs can improve cardiovascular health, boost oxytocin and dopamine levels—neurotransmitters associated with happiness and calm, and improve overall physical and mental health. Dogs may also reduce your chances of developing allergies and asthma.
In an earlier post, we discussed the common theories around why food allergies have surged in recent years: 1) changes in our food system; 2) the “hygiene hypothesis”; 3) epigenetics; and 4) delayed allergen exposure. A commonality between these theories is environmental factors altering our body’s chemistry—particularly that of our gut and microbiome—making us more susceptible to developing allergies.
One way that we can shape our environments to reduce these odds could be having animals around early on in life.
Recent research has shown that infants in families with pets (70% dogs) that had been exposed either through the mother while in the womb or within the first three months of life have been found to have twice the amount of Ruminococcus—a bacteria linked to reduced childhood allergies. Similarly, in an experiment involving mice, exposure to dust from a dog owner’s home made mice less likely to produce a respiratory allergenic response, and interestingly, had different microbiome compositions as a result. Research also suggests that exposure to pets in a child’s first year of life can reduce their risk of developing allergies—and not just to the pet itself, but to food and airborne allergies as well.
This growing body of research around the microbiome is underscoring the important relationship between gut bacteria and our immune health—particularly in the first months of life. For food allergies, the pivotal window is the first year—this is when the microbiome is most vulnerable to disruption. Early introduction to allergenic foods in the first 4-11 months of life can reduce a child’s risk of developing food allergies. Similarly, exposure to antibiotics in this window can disrupt the microbiome and has been linked to a higher incidence of food allergies.
While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between pets, bacteria, and food allergies, one thing is clear: if you’re expecting a newborn any time soon, you might want to think about getting a puppy. 😉
– Abi & the Allergy Amulet Team