Many people are allergic to pollen and are forced to deal with allergic reactions every spring in the form of annoying sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, red and watery eyes, hives, swelling, stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea. Unfortunately, the prevalence of both “everyday” allergies, as well as severe and often life-threatening allergic conditions, is increasing at an alarming pace. However, research has been able to show that the condition of the gut flora has an effect on the risk of developing allergies.
Pollen is one of the triggers of allergic reactions. Food is another. 90 percent of all allergic reactions associated with food are caused by milk, eggs, nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. An allergic reaction occurs when one or more of the body’s tissues and cells are exposed to substances that are foreign to the body, such as pollen and gluten. When the body is exposed to these substances, a defensive reaction is triggered which our bodies handle differently and which has different effects depending on how prepared or sensitive we are.
Studies conducted on animals have shown that the body’s normal defence mechanisms are largely disrupted if the gut flora is unbalanced, or exposed to antibiotics or other chemicals. For example, mice that were exposed to antibiotics during the neonatal period developed peanut allergies much later in life.
Probiotics have been tested as a treatment for allergies in laboratory animals. Lactobacilli have been shown to have a strong inhibitory effect on the development of asthma in mice. Tests are also being performed on humans. As early as 15 years ago, Finnish researchers treated pregnant women from families who were severely affected by allergies with probiotics during their last months of pregnancy. The newborn babies were treated for another six months, which turned out to halve the incidence of allergies.
A well-functioning gut flora is thus a prerequisite for proper protection against a variety of allergies. People who are unable to develop a healthy gut flora and a strong immune system are vulnerable to allergies and chronic diseases. In order to develop a healthy gut flora with lots of benign bacteria that protect against diseases, we need to consume plant fibres. Many modern people, however, consume industrially produced Western food, low in those fibres that benign gut bacteria love.
If you want to avoid future allergies, it may be a good idea to consume a high-fibre diet, or to add benign bacteria to your diet in another way. Research has shown that children with allergies have lower levels of the short-chain fatty acids known as propionic acid, acetic acid and butyric acid in their gut compared with children that don’t suffer from allergies. Adding healthy fibre to your diet seems, among other things, to increase these important short-chain fatty acids in the intestine.
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