Has your struggle with allergies hit an all-time high? If stepping outside on a sunny, spring day makes your eyeballs feel like they are on fire, it’s time to heal your gut… hang on, what?
Let me explain… Allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to something normally harmless, such as pollen or dust mites, triggering inflammation and producing allergic symptoms. These range from hay fever (also known as allergic rhinitis), digestive discomfort, eczema and asthma, to life-threatening anaphylaxis. While quick-fix medications, such as antihistamines, provide symptomatic relief, targeting the underlying drivers of allergy, particularly your gut health and function, can provide long-term health benefits. So before you pack up your life and prepare to leave planet Earth because you’re allergic to it, why not improve your gut health to increase your tolerance to allergic triggers? This can help you overcome your allergies and enable you to leave the house again without fiery eyeballs. While quick-fix medications, such antihistamines, provide symptomatic relief, targeting the underlying drivers of allergy, particularly your gut health and function, can provide long-term health benefits.
Allergies Run Gut-deep Your microbiome (i.e. your gut bacteria) is a foundation of good health, especially when it comes to regulating your immune system and reducing it’s reactivity. In fact, dysbiosis (an imbalance in the types and levels of gut bacteria) has been identified as a characteristic feature of allergy,1 with research identifying differences in microbiome composition between people with allergies and those without. Dysbiosis has been shown to promote gut inflammation,2 which also stimulates inflammation beyond the gut. This includes the release of histamine (an inflammatory chemical produced by immune cells), causing many of the symptoms associated with allergy.3
Fortunately, you can reduce dysbiosis and improve the composition of your gut bacteria through use of specific probiotic strains (types of bacteria), which modulate your immune function to prevent and reduce allergic symptoms.4,5 For instance, the strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG®) has been shown to increase the production of anti-inflammatory immune cells, which counter allergy-associated inflammation and support healthy immunity.6,7 Optimising your gut bacteria composition has also been shown to suppress histamine release.8 Collectively, these benefits may reduce immune over reactivity and lessen allergy symptoms.
Help! I’m Leaking Gut inflammation, caused by dysbiosis, has also been shown to trigger leaky gut,9 which occurs when your gut barrier (cells that form a physical barrier between your digestive tract and the rest of your body) becomes permeable or ‘leaky’. When the gut barrier is breached, food particles, bacteria and toxins may be able to enter your bloodstream, exacerbating inflammation and triggering an immune response that worsens allergy symptoms.10 Leaky gut may seem confronting, however specific herbs and nutrients can help to restore a leaky gut barrier. These include:
Glutamine: an amino acid (a small compound that combines with other amino acids to form protein) that reinforces the integrity of the gut barrier and reduces the passage of contents between your gut and bloodstream.11
Vitamin A: is essential for optimal cell growth and maintenance of the gut barrier, with deficiency of this key nutrient preventing the regeneration of gut barrier cells.12
Zinc: another essential nutrient that supports the integrity of gut barrier cells, with deficiency increasing the likelihood of leaky gut developing.13
Baical skullcap: a herb that has been found to reduce the gaps that form between gut barrier cells (as a consequence of dysbiosis), causing them to become leaky.14
Shiitake mushroom: a medicinal mushroom that regulates immune function and reduces inflammation.15
Allergies? More like “Aller-geez, give me a break!” Given the strong connection between the health of the gut and immune reactivity, supporting good digestive system function can address some of the underlying factors that cause your immune system to be over-reactive. Given the strong connection between the health of the gut and immune reactivity, supporting good digestive system function can address some of the underlying factors that cause your immune system to be over-reactive.
Overcoming Allergies If your nose has done more running during springtime than you have, perhaps it’s time you considered an allergy plan with long-term health benefits. Maintaining a healthy gut is key to supporting your immune function and building tolerance to allergic triggers, and is therefore central to providing a lasting solution to allergic conditions. For guidance around how best to improve your allergies.
References 1 Waligora-Dupriet A, Marie-José Butel M. Microbiota and allergy: From dysbiosis to probiotics [Internet]. Rijeka, Croatia: InTech; 2012 [cited 2015 Oct 5].Available from: http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs/31790/InTech-Microbiota_and_allergy_from_dysbiosis_to_probiotics.pdf 2 Colombo BM, Scalvenzi T, Benlamara S, Pollet N. Microbiota and mucosal immunity in amphibians. Front Immunol. 2015;6:111. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2015.00111. 3 Afrin LB, Khoruts A. Mast cell activation disease and microbiotic interactions. Clin Ther. 2015 May 1;37(5):941-53. doi: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2015.02.008. 4 Prescott SL. Early-life environmental determinants of allergic diseases and the wider pandemic of inflammatory noncommunicable diseases. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013 Jan;131(1):23-30. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2012.11.019. 5 Kamada N, Seo SU, Chen GY, Núñez G. Role of the gut microbiota in immunity and inflammatory disease. Nat Rev Immunol. 2013 May;13(5):321-35. doi:10.1038/nri3430. 6 Isolauri E, Sütas Y, Kankaanpää P, Arvilommi H, Salminen S. Probiotics: effects on immunity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Feb;73(2 Suppl):444S-450S. Review. PMID: 11157355. 7 Gill HS. Probiotics to enhance anti-infective defences in the gastrointestinal tract. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2003 Oct;17(5):755-73. Review. PMID: 14507586. 8 Afrin LB, Khoruts A. Mast cell activation disease and microbiotic interactions. Clin Ther. 2015 May 1;37(5):941-53. doi: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2015.02.008. 9 Morris G, Berk M, Carvalho AF, Caso JR, Sanz Y, Maes M. The role of microbiota and intestinal permeability in the pathophysiology of autoimmune and neuroimmune processes with an emphasis on inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 diabetes and chronic fatigue syndrome. Curr Pharm Des. 2016;22(40):6058-6075. 10 Ventura MT, Polimeno L, Amoruso AC, Gatti F, Annoscia E, Marinaro M, et al. Intestinal permeability in patients with adverse reactions to food. Dig Liver Dis. 2006 Oct;38(10):732-6. PMID: 16880015. 11 Miller A. The pathogenesis, clinical implications and treatment of intestinal hyperpermeability. Alt Med Rev [Internet]. 1997 [cited 2017 Jul 13]. Available at: http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/290061/15262306/1322064750827/Intestinal_Hyperpermeability.pdf?token=0vEeWSqCFTx9k6wiH6hvN17fXc8%3D. 12 Sirisinha S. The pleiotropic role of vitamin A in regulating mucosal immunity. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol. 2015 Jun;33(2):71-89. PMID: 26141028. 13 Wang X, Valenzano MC, Mercado JM, Zurbach EP, Mullin JM. Zinc supplementation modifies tight junctions and alters barrier function of CACO-2 human intestinal epithelial layers. Dig Dis Sci. 2013 Jan;58(1):77-87. doi: 10.1007/s10620-012-2328-8. PMID: 22903217. 14 Shin HS, Bae MJ, Jung SY, Shon DH. Inhibitory effect of skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) extract on ovalbumin permeation in vitro and in vivo. Food Chem. 2013 Sep 1;140(1-2):22-30. 15 Dai X, Stanilka JM, Rowe CA, Esteves EA, Nieves C Jr, Spaiser SJ, et al. Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) mushrooms daily improves human immunity: a randomized dietary intervention in healthy young adults. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(6):478-87.