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Can probiotics reverse food allergies?

Food allergies are becoming more common, and they can have serious social and psychological consequences for individuals and their families.

While many individuals manage their allergies by avoiding allergens and using epinephrine in the event of accidental exposure, there is growing interest in finding ways to reverse or alleviate food allergies. 

Probiotics, the friendly bacteria present in foods and dietary supplements, have gained attention for their potential role in modulating the immune system and promoting gut health. Studies have indicated that probiotics can help mitigate food allergies by maintaining a healthy gut microbiota and boosting the immune system. 

What are food allergies?

A food allergy occurs when our body’s immune system incorrectly identifies a protein in a specific food item as harmful and initiates an immune response to protect the body. 

Peanuts, wheat, eggs, tree nuts, milk, fish, shellfish, and soy are all common food allergens.

Food allergies can cause mild hives and gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort to severe anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal reaction.

Probiotics and Gut Health

The gut microbiome refers to the diverse ecosystem of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, that inhabit our gastrointestinal tract. 

According to recent studies, the gut microbiome plays an important role in immune system control and general health. 

A healthy gut microbiota is critical for sustaining a strong immune response while avoiding damaging inflammatory responses.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that confer health benefits when consumed in sufficient quantities. They can be found in foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi, as well as in supplements.  

Probiotics are well-known for their potential to improve gut health by promoting a varied and healthy microbiome. They can aid in the restoration of good bacteria in the gut, which can be disturbed by stress, antibiotics, and poor dietary quality. Gut Dysbiosis has been linked to the development of food allergies.

The potential of probiotic strains in managing food allergies

Several research has been conducted to evaluate the potential of probiotics in the management of food allergies. Probiotics have emerged as potential therapeutic agents for treating food allergies by enhancing the tolerogenic microenvironment in the gut. 

A study reported that food allergy is caused by the lack of particularly good or beneficial bacteria in the gut. The loss of beneficial bacteria can function as a switch, making youngsters more vulnerable to food allergies.

Clinical studies have demonstrated the efficacy of perinatal and early probiotic administration for preventing food allergies.

However, research in this field is still in its early stages.

Probiotics may affect food allergies in the following ways:

  1. Immune System Modulation: Probiotics may help regulate the immune system, and modify antigens, potentially attenuating the hypersensitivity response that occurs in food allergies. By promoting a balanced immune system, probiotics could mitigate allergic reactions. Probiotics, particularly L. rhamnosus CGMCC 1.3724, combined with peanut oral immunotherapy (PPOIT) have shown promising results in treating peanut allergy by boosting immune responses.
  2. Gut Barrier Function: The gut lining acts as a barrier, preventing allergies and potentially dangerous chemicals from entering the circulation. Probiotics may enhance the integrity of this barrier, reducing intestinal permeability and allergenic protein (antigen) uptake from the intestinal lumen.
  3. Tolerance Induction Probiotics induce oral tolerance, which is the immune system’s capacity to tolerate allergenic proteins when consumed. Probiotics can increase the number of commensal gut microorganisms, which are bacteria that live in the gut and interact with the immune system to enhance food tolerance. Studies have indicated that probiotics, particularly Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, may provide relief of symptoms for children with cow’s milk allergy by tolerance induction; however, the evidence is imprecise.
  4. Anti-Inflammatory effects: Probiotics have demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties, and increase intestinal antibodies, which may help attenuate inflammation linked to allergic reactions.
  5. Early-Life Exposure: Early exposure to probiotics may lower the likelihood of food allergies in children. Studies have reported that a dysfunctional gut microbiome is crucial role to the pathogenesis of food allergy mediated by cesarean section (CS). Interventions that can influence the makeup of the gut microbiome in infancy have therapeutic implications for CS-related food allergies.

The health benefits of probiotics are strain-specific and have been more prominently observed in the pediatric population. Food allergies may be avoided by consuming probiotics, notably Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium longum

Prenatal supplementation with B. lactis, Bifidobacterium bifidumLactobacillus rhamnosus, and Lactobacillus acidophilus can prevent atopic sensitization induced by food allerfy among infants with a family history of food allergies. 

Considerations and Challenges

While the potential advantages of probiotics in the management of food allergies are intriguing, it is critical to proceed with caution:

  1. Individual-level variations: Individual responses to probiotics can vary widely, and what works for one person may not work for another.
  2. Severity of Allergy: Probiotics may be more useful in those who have lesser food allergies, but their significance in reversing severe allergies is unknown.
  3. Need for Standardization: The probiotic strains and doses utilized in research studies differ, making it difficult to provide consistent standards.
  4. Further Research required: Probiotics have the potential to be used as a treatment for food allergies. However, additional study is needed, including more thorough, large-scale clinical studies, to show their efficacy and determine the best dose and procedures for reversing food allergies.

Final thoughts

Probiotics may help treat food allergies by restoring gut microbial balance, improving barrier function, and modulating immune responses. However, further research is needed to fully understand their potential. 

Food allergy management involves maintaining a balanced diet, controlling stress, and following prescribed therapies. Restoring beneficial bacteria is crucial for restoring immunological tolerance.

Diets rich in nutrients and whole foods may offer additional protection against food allergies. Consume more vitamins A, C, and E, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and beta-carotene. Artificial sweeteners, gluten, and processed carbs should all be avoided. Consult a healthcare practitioner for individualized allergy treatment programs.

Probiotic usage might be a game changer in food allergy prevention and treatment.


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