by Dr. Lawrence Hoberman
An estimated 50 million people suffer from allergic rhinitis in the United States, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI). As many as 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children are affected by allergic rhinitis. These statistics don’t include the percentage of people with food allergies, skin allergies, allergies to medicine or asthma.
“Allergic diseases, which include asthma, are the fifth most prevalent chronic diseases in all ages, and the third most common in children,” the ACAAI states.
The World Health Organization asserts that the number of people who deal with allergies has continued to rise during the past 50 years in industrialized areas like the United States. Allergies are a chronic health disorder that people have to manage for the rest of their lives; they are not curable, but there are ways to deal with them.
Treatment depends on the type of allergy, but the most straightforward way to avoid allergy symptoms is to avoid allergens: dust, pollen, foods, etc. Other common options include taking antihistamine medications or immunotherapy (allergy shots). Unfortunately, these options can be inconvenient for people living with allergies. Allergy shots can be painful and require a doctor’s visit for administration. Avoiding allergens isn’t always possible, and medicines can be costly and often come with side effects.
The Probiotic Option
One less common yet promising treatment method involves taking probiotics. Numerous studies have supported the use of probiotics as a treatment for allergies including rhinitis, food allergies and allergies in children.
In a study at Vanderbilt University, researchers conducted 23 substudies. In all but six of the studies, participants demonstrated some improvements in at least one aspect of their health after starting a probiotic regimen.
Specifically, there was “statistically significant improvement in both the rhinitis-specific quality of life of those patients and in their nasal specific quality of life,” said lead author Dr. Justin Turner, an associate professor of otolaryngology at Vanderbilt University.
In another study, published by PLOS ONE, 60 participants were separated into two groups. One group consumed a drink with no probiotic bacterium, and the other group was given a drink containing a proprietary strain of the Lactobacillus casei bacterium probiotic strain.
The researchers found that the drink containing the probiotic bacterium altered how test subjects reacted when exposed to grass and pollen, as measured by positive microscopic changes in their collective immune systems.
Eight types of food account for about 90 percent of all reactions: eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy. Currently, the preferred treatment is avoidance, but that may change as probiotics gain empirical support as a treatment for allergies.
“Allergies are a chronic health disorder that people have to manage for the rest of their lives; they are not curable, but there are ways to deal with them.”
Researchers at the University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences developed mice with limited gut bacteria that displayed a strong reaction to peanuts when compared to normal mice. When researchers introduced a strain of Clostridia into their microflora, the peanut sensitivity was reversed.
These results are encouraging in light of the fact that food allergies in children are on the rise, affecting nearly 6 million children, according to the ACAAI.
Allergies in Children
Researchers from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Australia conducted an 18-month double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that included 60 children with peanut allergies. Twenty-eight of the children received probiotics containing a proprietary strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus. By the end of the study, all but five could safely tolerate eating 4 grams of peanut protein without a problem.
Research with probiotics has led scientists to link less diversity of specific types of gut bacteria and decreases in gut bacteria with the development of allergies. A study by researchers from the University of Chicago found that babies with cow’s milk allergies had significantly different compositions of gut bacteria compared to healthy children.
Infants with too much of the Enterobacteriaceae gut bacteria and not enough Ruminococcaceae and Bacteroidaceae bacteria at three months were more likely to develop allergies to peanuts, eggs and other foods by the time they reached age one. However, babies whose bodies responded to a probiotic formula containing the proprietary strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) had higher amounts of gut bacteria and developed a tolerance to cow’s milk.
Treating Allergies with Probiotics
Probiotics are helpful gut bacteria that are shown to provide many health benefits when taken as a daily supplement. They are a natural, healthy alternative to allergy medications. Probiotic supplements are a supported treatment for allergies and a great option for allergy suffers tired of taking medications, getting shots and avoiding everyday allergens.
Dr. Lawrence Hoberman is a San Antonio-based, board-certified gastroenterologist whose medical career has spanned four decades. Dr. Hoberman developed a holistic approach to treating gutrelated health problems with his multi-strain EndoMune Advanced Probiotic for adults nearly a decade ago, followed by EndoMune Advanced Junior for Kids. In 2013, EndoMune Advanced Junior became the first probiotic certified by the North American organization Parent Tested, Parent Approved. Learn more about Dr. Hoberman and EndoMune by visiting www.endomune.com.