More and more people are developing allergies, and the issue may have to do with a lack of exposure to good bacteria.
Bacteria in our digestive system have an important role in digestion, but they also help our immune systems, too: they help teach our bodies how to react to sicknesses and other foreign substances.
Probiotics can help balance your good bacteria and produce a stronger immune response to common allergens.
Allergic Rhinitis and Probiotics
Allergic rhinitis may make you feel like you’re trying to fight off a common cold, especially thanks to a runny nose and sneezing. However, unlike the common cold, which is caused by a virus, allergic rhinitis is caused by allergens in the air, such as dust, pollen, mold spores, or even pet fur.
It’s a relatively common condition, affecting between 15 and 30 percent of Americans, but while it can be uncomfortable, there is actually some good news: there may be some easy ways to minimize symptoms.
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The frustrating symptoms of allergic rhinitis are caused by an immune response to foreign substances in the body. By focusing on immune system health, it may be possible to alter this response and reduce the severity of allergic rhinitis symptoms.
Probiotics for allergies is understood to be an effective method. Genomic DNA seemed to contribute about 50% of the immunomodulatory effects of living probiotics.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live cultures, such as bacteria and yeasts like Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Escherichia. Although bacteria is often thought of as being a cause of illness, the good bacteria found in probiotics can actually be beneficial to health.
The gut naturally contains both good and bad bacteria, and under normal circumstances, these bacteria balance themselves out.
However, there are times when this balance becomes lost, and probiotics are needed to help restore equilibrium inside the body. Experts believe that probiotics could help to reduce allergic rhinitis symptoms, as well as symptoms of asthma.
How Do Probiotics Help With Allergies?
Good hygiene is the best way to get rid of harmful bacteria, but excessive hygiene can kill helpful bacteria as well. More and more studies have suggested that children who grow up in sterile environments are also more likely to develop allergies, asthma, and other immune problems later in life.
When a child lacks a robust gut flora, they lose out on a lot of essential diversity that would otherwise keep their body reacting normally to foreign but harmless substances, like pollen.
While probiotics are not a miracle cure-all for allergies, they can go a long way towards helping foster a much more comfortable lifestyle, especially when used in tandem with other treatment methods.
How Does it Work?
The link between probiotics and allergies isn’t particularly clear to researchers, and how probiotics work is still a bit of a mystery. It’s believed that different types of bacteria have their own uniques ways of helping out.
Some strains of bacteria, like Bifidobacterium longum, for example, have been shown to regulate T-cells in the body which can help to produce a stronger immune response to common allergens.
Other strains, like Lactobacillus casei Shirota, appear to alter the balance of antibodies, which can be especially beneficial for people whose symptoms are triggered by pollen during the summer.
Do Probiotics Really Work?
Although probiotics are still widely considered to be an ‘alternative’ allergy treatment, research shows that they can have a very positive — and very significant — effect on allergic rhinitis symptoms.
Not only do studies suggest that allergic rhinitis sufferers who take probiotics enjoy a greater quality of life overall than those who do not, but there is also evidence to suggest that probiotics could reduce the number of allergic rhinitis episodes experienced each year, thereby reducing the need for traditional treatments.
Treatment with Probiotics
An increasing number of studies has shown a significant, positive correlation between probiotics use and treatment of some allergies. While not all allergies respond to probiotics – hay fever, for example, was not affected in six different studies – seasonal allergies have been shown to be improved with probiotic usage.
However, these quality of life improvements are varied, and some improvements are quite mild. Sample group, types of allergies, symptoms, and results are across a broad spectrum. For example, numerous studies have shown that allergic rhinitis responses to the household dust mite decrease significantly in adults and children when probiotics were used. However, people allergic to birch pollen saw neither a decrease in general allergic responses to birch pollen or to apple food.
Most important, however, is the fact that many of these studies use different kinds of probiotics, and each bacteria strain may have a different effect on the body. While no probiotic is outright harmful, some may be less effective than others.
Researchers are still working on identifying which strains of probiotics for allergies are most beneficial; however, things like how best to take them, how often to take them, and how strict a regimen to follow when taking them must also be examined.
Sources of Probiotics
Probiotic drinks and probiotic food supplements are widely available in the United States today. However, there are also a number of foods that contain these good bacteria, especially fermented foods like sourdough which produce bacteria naturally and utilize it for growth.
Other good sources of probiotics include yogurts, fermented cabbage dishes like sauerkraut and kimchi, and soft cheeses.
How to Take Probiotics for Allergies
If you’re hoping to grab a probiotic from your local drugstore instead of a traditional allergy medicine and hope for the same results, you might want to wait a while.
As of now, the most comprehensive meta-study (a study of different studies) has not been able to decisively identify any particular strain of bacteria that is specifically useful to treat seasonal allergies. Some studies contradict each other on which bacteria can treat grass pollen, and other studies will find that those strains the first two studies examined weren’t nearly as effective in their own trials.
The people taking the probiotics in the studies took them in a variety of methods, as well, in carefully measured and timed dosages. That means that adding some yogurt to your breakfast every morning during allergy season probably won’t do much to help your sneezing and itchy eyes.
Some scientists are skeptical as to whether or not probiotics will ever work as well as our current antihistamines. If anything, they’re better suited to therapy, or treatment for those with very mild symptoms.
Others scientists are more hopeful. Finding out how exactly probiotics work in regards to allergies is an important step in that process. Some studies show that some strains of bacteria can affect how our T cells (an immune cell responsible for the big immune responses) function. Others suggest that they may reduce the production of a part of the immune system called immunoglobulin E, which is produced in excess during an allergic reaction.
If either of these turns out to be true, it may be possible to pick strains of bacteria specifically suited to different types of allergies, such as grass pollen and hay fever.
Can You Be Allergic to Probiotics?
If taking probiotic drinks and supplements, it’s a good idea to look for those which contain bacteria that has shown to be effective for treating allergic rhinitis. Lactobacillus GG and L. gasseri are believed to be two of the best probiotics for allergies, along with L. acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis.
Your gut’s biome can be drastically affected by any number of things. While the foundation of your own microflora is often developed in the first few months of life, your lifestyle can make huge changes to what lives in your stomach.
Following a healthy and active lifestyle and eating a balanced diet are the best ways to foster a bountiful gut flora. Taking care of your gut flora can help with things like irritable bowel syndrome and chronic constipation, among other things. Even if you’re not sold on pursuing probiotics for your allergies, they’re good to consider if you’re experiencing any gastrointestinal issues.
Are Probiotics Safe?
Probiotics for allergies are fast becoming a preferred treatment method because they are understood to be much safer than traditional allergic rhinitis medication. A nasal spray for allergies is often a ‘go to’ treatment, for example, but allergy nose spray medications often contain corticosteroids, like Beclometasone dipropionate, which could affect bone metabolism, blood cells, and the pituitary gland.
Probiotic drinks and supplements contain natural bacteria and yeasts, some of which will already be present in the gut. This means that probiotics are safe for use, and are a good option for managing and treating allergic rhinitis.
In many cases, probiotics have no side effects at all, and are not believed to interact with any medications, although some people may experience some mild gas.
Less is known about probiotic side effects in people with weakened immune systems, such as those who are critically ill or who have recently undergone surgery.
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