Can Probiotics Help with Allergies Related to Food?

Food allergies are a common problem with up to eight percent of children being affected in some form or other. Not all “food allergies” are actually allergies in the true sense of the word. Allergies related to food need to be distinguished from food sensitivities and intolerances which are conditions that don’t involve an actual immune response. True food allergies can occur to almost any food with allergies to nuts, milk, eggs, and shellfish being among the most common. When it comes to allergies related to food, there may be new hope on the horizon. A new study shows that probiotics may play a role in the prevention of allergies to food.

Prevention of Allergies to Food: A New Study

This study which was published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that when mice sensitive to the whey in milk were given a supplement containing a probiotic along with a prebiotic fiber, they experienced a reduced allergic response to milk. Not only did the mice exhibit less skin signs of allergy, they also showed a reduction in the number of antibodies to the whey found in milk.

How is This Study Significant?

If this study can be replicated in humans, supplementation with probiotics and prebiotics may provide a way to prevent allergies related to food in children. Probiotics are the friendly bacteria found in the digestive tract that help to promote good gut health. They also help to maintain a healthy immune system which may account for their ability to reduce the risk of allergies to food. Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that encourage the growth of friendly gut bacteria. They help to maintain digestive health and a healthy immune system indirectly by feeding the healthy gut bacteria.

Allergies Related to Food: What Do Other Studies Show?

This isn’t the first study to look at probiotics for prevention of food related allergies and other allergic conditions. Initially it was thought that probiotics might help to reduce the incidence of eczema, an allergic type skin disorder, but several trials giving probiotics to infants have shown mixed results. Despite this, researchers are still optimistic that probiotics may be of value for preventing and treating allergic disease. There have been few studies looking at the use of probiotic and prebiotic combinations, sometimes referred to as symbiotics, to treat allergies related to food.

Probiotics for Treatment of Allergies to Food: The Bottom Line?

Probiotics are thought to play an important role in maintaining intestinal health and overall health in general, but caution should be taken when using probiotic supplements. They may not be safe for people with a serious underlying medical condition. In one study where they were given to seriously ill patients with pancreatitis, some of the patients died, although it’s unclear whether the deaths were related to the probiotics. Plus, probiotic supplements differ widely in quality and it can be difficult to know what you’re getting when you buy them.

The best way to get probiotics is to get them naturally through fermented foods such as miso, sauerkraut, kefir, and yogurt with active cultures. More and more probiotic enhanced foods can be found at local supermarkets and health food stores these days and provide a safe way to get the benefits of these healthful bacteria. If you have any underlying medical problems, be sure to ask your doctor before adding probiotics to your diet.