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The Allergy, Gut Connection

What does your gut health have to do with allergies? Perhaps quite a bit.

As mentioned before on this site, the beneficial bacteria in your intestines play a very important role in immunity. Probiotics have been linked to benefits such as improved gut health, decreased infections, and increased immunity. Recent research also indicates that they may offer hope to those with allergies.

It makes sense when you consider that your gut is the largest protective wall between you and the outside world. To provide some protection to the body, the gut creates a “mucosal barrier” to help keep out the bad stuff. This barrier is built up of the cells of the gut, a mucous layer and the gut bacteria. When bacteria, pathogens, or allergens cross this barrier and enter the blood stream, the immune system responds.

The immune system needs to have a balance between actively responding to a threat and knowing when to stop. Active responses cause inflammation, which is necessary to eliminate infections. However, if the immune response doesn’t know when to stop, inflammation keeps going, resulting in an inflammatory disease. Probiotics help the immune system to develop “stop” responses, so that you don’t overreact to something harmless like food or pollens.

Researchers are looking at whether populating your gut with the right probiotics could be the key to easing those allergy symptoms. They have found that taking probiotics may decrease allergic reactions in the gut, such as food allergies, and whole body allergic reactions as well, such as eczema, hay fever and possibly even asthma.

Research* indicates that probiotics may:
• Prevent food allergy by promoting better gut barrier mechanisms and lessening intestinal inflammation.
• Reduce the levels of serum IgE, which are the antibodies involved in an allergic response
• Reduce the Th2 cytokine response, which is what creates a pronounced allergic response
• Promote the development of and stimulate immune response

More research needs to be done in this exciting area to determine exactly how probiotics and allergies are linked. And probiotics will not take the place of allergy medications or products that help relieve symptoms for those experiencing allergic reactions. But it does appear that the unique way probiotics strengthen the immune system may also play an important role in reducing allergic responses.

Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacteria bifidum, two of the beneficial bacteria being used in studies, can be found in Immunity Support, along with 20 other immune-balancing nutrients, herbs and extracts.

To read about other ingredients that have been linked to improved immunity, see Natural Immunity Ingredient Reviews.

* Ouwehand AC: Antiallergic effects of probiotics. J Nutr. 2007 Mar;137(3 Suppl 2):794S-7S.

von der Weid T, et al: Novel probiotics for the management of allergic inflammation. Dig Liver Dis. 2002 Sep;34 Suppl 2:S25-8.

Erika Isolauri, Yelda Sütas, Pasi Kankaanpää, Heikki Arvilommi and Seppo Salminen: Probiotics: effects on immunity. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 73, No. 2, 444S-450s, February 2001.

Ivory et al. Oral delivery of Lactobacillus casei Shirota modifies allergen-induced immune responses in allergic rhinitis. Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2008; 0 (0): 080528223344047 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2222.2008.03025.

Majamaa H, Isolauri E: Probiotics: a novel approach in the management of food allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1997 Feb;99(2):179-85.

Dr. Reginald B. Cherry (drcherry.org) is a member of the American Medical Association, Texas Medical Association, Harris County Medical Society, and the American College of Preventive Medicine. Dr. Cherry has authored numerous articles on Preventive Medicine, emphasizing nutrition and exercise. He also speaks extensively on these topics nationwide and conducts numerous seminars for various groups and organizations. Currently, his weekly television program reaches 80 million homes. www.thepathwaytohealing.com

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