Seasonal Allergies Reduced by Bifidobacteria Probiotics
Allergies aren’t just about allergens. Allergies such as hay fever are also about the microbes that inhabit our bodies.
The bacteria that inhabit our guts have a long reach. They can boost or burden our immune systems. And the good bacteria – probiotics such as bifidobacteria – can help our bodies fight or adapt to foreigners we may breathe in – such as pollen.
Probiotic bacteria also line healthy sinuses, throat and oral cavities. These probiotics help our immune system in those regions in many ways.
One of those ways is to help break down compounds considered foreign to the cells of the sinuses.
Probiotics reduce childhood allergies
A 2017 study from the Second University of Naples and the San Martino Hospital studied 40 children with allergic rhinitis – the medical term for hay fever and other sinus-related allergies. Many of the children also had allergy-related asthma. They were aged 9 years old on average.
The children were split into two groups. One group was given a combination probiotic supplement consisting of Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium infantis and Bifidobacterium breve. The other children were given a placebo.
After four weeks of treatment, the researchers found the children given the probiotic combination had significantly fewer hay fever symptoms compared to the placebo group and compared to the beginning of the trial.
The children taking the probiotics also had significantly higher Quality of Life scores compared to the beginning and the placebo group.
Meanwhile, the placebo group experienced a worsening of symptoms through the four weeks.
Bifidobacteria ease hay fever in adults
A 2013 study from Switzerland also found that Bifidobacteria significantly reduce allergies, as well as boost the immune system during allergy season.
In this double-blinded, placebo-controlled study, the researchers gave 20 adult patients with seasonal allergies either supplemented Bifidobacterium lactis (strain number NCC2818) or a placebo for eight weeks.
The study took place during the peak of grass pollen allergy season and the patients were all sufferers of seasonal allergic rhinitis.
The recruits for the study were confirmed to be pollen-allergic using skin testing and a medical history of pollen allergies.
Before, during and after the eight weeks of treatment, the patients were given questionnaires and blood tests to assess their symptoms.
The researchers found that those who took the probiotic supplement had significantly fewer hay fever symptoms. Sinus symptoms such as nasal discharge, sneezing and so on were significantly lower in the probiotic group.
The probiotic group also had significantly lower levels of inflammatory cytokines within their blood. Basophil levels – white blood cells often used to diagnose allergies and other inflammatory conditions – were also significantly lower among the probiotic group.
These objective blood findings illustrated what their symptoms indicated: that their bodies were not responding in the same way to the pollen.
Probiotics require patience
Because most of the improvement came in the second month of treatment, the research also confirmed that probiotic and/or food supplementation need to be taken for a couple of months before good results are seen.
In this regard, the researchers commented:
“For the beneficial effect of probiotics to manifest on the immune system and allergic symptoms, a continuous 8-week period of oral administration could be required to reach a possible beneficial outcome.”
Why Bifidobacteria are so potent for allergies
Bifidobacteria typically colonize the colon – the lower intestines. Because bifidobacteria help reduce the body’s levels of chemical byproducts of pathogenic bacteria. These are also referred to as endotoxins, such as ammonia, urea and trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO).
For example, a 2015 study of 224 people found that high TMAO levels were linked to coronary artery disease. In other words, the type of bacteria that colonizing our colons are critical to our health.
So how do bifidobacteria reduce these endotoxins? These endotoxins burden the immune system, because the immune system must work harder throughout the body to remove them.
Because bifidobacteria will reduce the pathogenic bacteria colonies that produce these endotoxins, they essentially unburden and thus boost our immunity. That helps our bodies fight or adapt to foreign compounds such as pollens.
Bifidobacteria such as B. lactis is often used for culturing yogurt, as well as certain types of natural cheeses. Traditional buttermilk and cottage cheese production also utilizes B. lactis, but most modern conventional versions of these two healthy foods use acidification rather than probiotic culturing methods.
This effect is also seen in research showing that antibiotic use tends to increase the risk of allergies.
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