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Food Allergies, Your Gut, and the Immune Response

If you or a loved one suffers with food allergies, you are not alone. The number of people with dietary allergies is on the rise, in fact, one in 13 children has some food sensitivity.  It is thought that this increase may be due to the over-use of antibiotics and the typical western diet. Scientists now know that these same habits can result in an altered gut microbiome.  So, is there a link between food allergies and the gut microbiome?  YES.

The immune response depends on a well-fed gut microbiome

You may not have given it much thought, but the inside lining of your digestive tract, or gut, is the barrier between the inside of your body and the outside world.  It’s obvious that our immune system defends our body from outsiders which could do harm, such as pathogens. That makes this inside lining the place where important immune responses happen—where the immune system decides to treat foreign stuff as friend or as foe. And this immune response depends on a diverse population of well-fed microbes in your gut microbiome.

What you feed your gut makes all the difference in that balance, and it’s your diet’s impact on your microbiome that is the key.

The action is at the gut lining

Your immune system is constantly being calibrated and balanced by its interaction with the contents in your gut.  These interactions include recognizing the good microbes that naturally live there, from any unwanted substances. In a healthy gut, with a healthy lining, beneficial microbes produce molecules that provide necessary energy to the cells of the lining, making the lining a thick, protective layer. Your immune system stays attentive but doesn’t get out of control.

Your microbiome helps maintain this immune balance so it doesn’t overreact or under-react. When things are running smoothly, that’s all is well.

How do you get a healthy gut: it starts from the beginning of life

We know that the balance of microbes can be changed daily by changes in our diet, particularly by eating fiber—prebiotic fiber.   Medical evidence shows that a diet rich in fruits and veggies leads to a healthy microbiome during early life to help calibrate possible allergic responses.  Even mother’s milk is rich in prebiotic complex carbohydrates.  Research is underway to show that providing the gut microbiome with good prebiotics can help ease food allergies. 

Can an altered microbiome lead to food allergies?

Things that can cause an altered gut microbiome include: the over-use of antibiotics, long-term fasting, and a diet that is missing the recommended 25-35 grams of daily fiber from fruits and vegetables. In particular, it is prebiotic fiber that the microbes need to help keep your immune system in balance.  If the bacteria in your microbiome are underfed, they can turn on the lining of the digestive tract and start eating it.  The resulting thinning of the protective layer can create tiny holes, a condition known as ‘leaky gut.’ ††

When bacteria or foreign substances, which are normally harmless when in the gut, get through the leaks, that can trigger an immune response. Think of what happens to your skin when you cut or scrape yourself—it becomes hot, red, swollen, and sensitive to touch.  This reaction is healthy, normal, and temporary.  But that kind of reaction at the gut lining is usually not healthy.

The key is to keep the gut microbiome well fed, and thus the gut lining healthy.

Soothing some allergies might be as easy as drinking a daily smoothie

Daily prebiotic fiber keeps your microbes working for you. Societies known to include high amounts of fiber in their diets have much lower rates of food allergies.  Foods rich in the prebiotic beta-glucan (from oats), and antioxidant polyphenols (from berries) can help perform this role.

A blended prebiotic supplement, such as BiomeBliss, can help boost the health of your good gut bacteria to provide a host of benefits. †   ††

Food allergies can be serious.  Some allergies may not have anything to do with the microbiome and may not be changed or improved by making changes to your microbiome.  You should always seek the advice of your doctor prior to making changes in your personal approach to your food allergies or those of others.  ††

 

Further Reading

The human microbiome and autoimmunity. Proal AD, Albert PJ, Marshall TG. Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2013 Mar;25(2):234-40.

BioCentury Innovations. GUT Band-Aid.  April 2018.  by Michael Leviten.

Early Development of the Gut Microbiota and Immune Health.  Francino MP. Pathogens. 2014;3(3):769-790.

The influence of the microbiome on allergic sensitization to food. Plunkett CH and Nagler CR. PMCID PMC5228404, NIHMSID: NIHMS814748, PMID: 28069753

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2019 Mar;122(3):276-282. Doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2018.12.012. Epub 2018 Dec 20.

The gut microbiome in food allergy. Zhao W., Ho HE, Bunyavanich S. J Immunol. 2017 Jan:15:198(2): 581-589 doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1601266

 

 

† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

†† Consult your physician before beginning or changing anything that may affect food allergies.



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