May 31 2020

Food Allergies and Gut Health is there a connection?

Published by at 3:06 pm under Allergies

Food allergies and gut health…is there a connection?

Growing research has led scientists to look at how the microbiome holds the key to food allergies.   

An estimated 6 percent of children and 10 percent of adults in the US have some type of allergy to food. “…Food allergy refers to an abnormal immune reaction to harmless proteins in food (referred to as allergens) that repeatedly occurs on exposure to the proteins and causes mild to severe symptoms, ranging from an itchy mouth through to the life-threatening allergic reaction anaphylaxis…”. While certain treatments address the allergic response once it happens, there has been little known in the area of prevention. Researchers are stepping up their game as the problem continues to be on the rise.1*

As far back as two decades ago, researchers have been exploring how there must be a link between a person’s gut bacteria and food allergies. While not being able to identify exactly why, there is little doubt that the body’s resident bacteria have a strong connection to how the immune system responds to food allergens. As to why it is on the rise coincides with changes in habits and lifestyles in the last several decades such as an increase in antibiotic use, cesarean sections, and the lack of exposure to a variety of microbes during early childhood development as well as diet.1,2)*

When people have an allergy to food, the standard of care has pretty much been to simply avoid the offending foods, thus avoiding the culpable antigens. In severe cases, people can carry an EpiPen, (epinephrine autoinjector) and take antihistamines. Another newer option that has been explored is Immunotherapy, in which patients are “…exposed to low, increasing doses of an allergen over time…”. This only works for some patients though.(1,2)*

 Cathryn Nagler, an immunologist at the University of Chicago, is at the forefront of this emerging field of research. She is exploring how bacteria in the gut might be harnessed to address food allergies in children and adults. She and her team have identified the connection between an individual’s microbial makeup and whether or not that person has a food allergy and also determines whether a child will outgrow their food allergies or not. 2*

Through research and observation involving mice, Nagler and her team identified a “…genetic glitch that damages a receptor called TLR4 that sits in the membranes of immune cells and recognizes microbes. It appears as though mice with the food allergy lacked the ability for gut microbes and immune cells to connect and communicate…”3*

Nagler and her team focused on two major groups of bacteria in the human gut…Clostridia and Bacteroides. Working with mice that lacked all gut flora, they introduced both. They found that Clostridia “..prevented food-allergic responses…” when introduced into the guts of the mice.3*

“…There’s a potential explanation: Mice colonized with Clostridia bacteria had more regulatory T cells, a type of cell that dampens immune responses. The Clostridia mice also produced more of a molecule called IL-22 that strengthens the intestinal lining. A new theory began to emerge: If protective microbes are missing, the gut barrier weakens, allowing food proteins to seep into the bloodstream and potentially trigger allergic responses…”3*

This reasoning coincides with the fact that the foods which are top allergens, such as peanuts, eggs, soy, wheat, milk, tree nuts, fish and shellfish, while they have a little biochemical resemblance to each other, are alike in that they remain intact in the digestive tract rather than break down into small pieces to be absorbed as nutrients. Peanuts seem to be the strongest in this respect. It has the ability to resist degradation in the gut, according to Nagler. 3*

“…In 2004, Nagler and her coworkers published a report showing that peanuts provoked anaphylaxis only in mice with a mutated TLR4 receptor, not in genetically related strains with a normal TLR4. The difference disappeared when the scientists wiped out populations of gut bacteria with antibiotics. Then, even normal mice became susceptible to food allergies, implying that bacteria are at the heart of the protection…”3*

There are multiple studies taking place, and companies being developed, all exploring how to fortify, replace, modify or supplement bacteria in the gut in order to battle food allergies. While it is known that the “…microbiome’s impact comes early in life…”, one of the greatest challenges is “…getting new microbes established when someone already has a microbiome in place, even an unhealthy one…”. In the upcoming years, researchers are sure to know more about how to use the microbiome to battle and prevent food allergies. There are so many factors that influence a person’s risk for allergies and while the gut is just one, it is sure to play a key role. Every day, researchers are getting closer to finding the answer. We will keep you posted as we learn more.3*

For now, as always, we encourage you to keep your gut healthy by making wise lifestyle choices regardless of your age or stage in life. Avoiding antibiotics, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, avoid smoking and supplement with Body Biotics™ Bio-Identical SBO Probiotics Consortia™ daily to keep your gut healthy and balanced.*

Healthiest wishes,

Kelli

www.bodybiotics.com

 

Resources:

  1. www.news-medical.net/health/Can-you-Treat-a-Food-Allergy-by-Altering-the-Gut-Microbiome.aspx
  2. www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/could-manipulating-the-microbiome-treat-food-allergies–66105
  3. www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-microbes-may-be-key-to-solving-food-allergies/

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