We are encouraged to believe that killing 99% of bacteria within our homes is the best way to keep ourselves safe from harmful bacteria. But during this process we also remove all the good bacteria, therefore depleting the natural defences, that we need to prevent asthma and allergies. We may deal with the surface symptoms, but we don’t deal with the underlying cause of the allergy.
A lack of exposure to bacteria could even cause allergies. There is a growing awareness of the hygiene hypothesis. This theory suggests that a young child’s environment can be too clean to effectively stimulate or challenge the child’s immune system to respond to health threats. This can lead to the child’s immune system not maturing to resist allergens, and of course that can carry on into adulthood.
How does the immune system protect us from allergies?
Allergens are the foreign substances that cause allergies. An allergic reaction happens when your immune system overreacts to an external foreign substance. This reaction shows that something is not right within your body, and the immune system is imbalanced.
From the moment you were born, you were exposed to a number of microbes firstly from your mother’s birth canal and then from breast milk, skin-to-skin contact and the environment you were exposed to.
The microbes you encountered in the first few years of life were vital to determining how your immune system functions. It’s been shown that if you encounter antibiotics in the first year of life, you have a 20% higher chance of developing asthma.
The billions of bacteria in your digestive system play a vital role in your digestion, but they also boost your immune system. A balance of the good and bad bacteria helps to produce a strong immune response to common allergies – after all 80% of your immune system is located in your gut or intestinal tract.
The beneficial microbes within your gut:
- Create antimicrobial substances and lactic acids that eliminate pathogenic bacteria
- Protect your gut barrier and defend your bloodstream from the external environment and seal gaps in your intestinal wall
- Promote antibodies which are involved in the immune response and fight off harmful agents
The more exposure you had to different microbes at a young age, the more diverse your microbiome becomes and the healthier you are.
Which bacterial strains help with allergies?
Many probiotics are multi-strain, they consist of a variety of beneficial bacterial strains all intended to support health, whether it is digestive health, mental health or allergies. The three strains which have been proved to help with allergies are:
Lactobacillus acidophilus: This bacterial strain is found in your intestines and plays an important role in health. Some studies suggest that it can also reduce the symptoms of certain allergies. A study of 47 children with birch pollen allergies were tested with a probiotic containing lactobacillus acidophilus which reduced their symptoms of a runny nose and nasal blocking. It also reduced the number of antibodies called immunoglobulin A in their intestines, which is involved in allergic reactions.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus: Found in the intestines, these bacteria adapts to survive the acidic conditions within your body and colonise your intestinal wall. In 2013, a study examined two groups of children; one group was given lactobacillus rhamnosus in combination with a peanut protein daily and the second group was given a placebo. At the end of 18 months, 82% of group one (those given lactobacillus rhamnosus) had become tolerant to peanuts whereas in group two (placebo) only 4% acquired the tolerance.
Bifidobacterium longum: This strain of bacteria is introduced very early in life and appears to make the immune system less prone to allergies. In 2017, there was a study of 40 children with hay fever. They were split into two groups. One group was given a probiotic treatment with bifidobacterium longum and the other group was given a placebo. After four weeks, the group given the bacteria had significantly fewer hay fever symptoms compared to the placebo group whose symptoms seemed to have worsened.
Taking a probiotic can be really beneficial for those who suffer with any sort of allergy and when your gut is in tiptop shape, you are best prepared to resist allergic reactions. Bio-Live active cultures contain all three bacterial strains mentioned and much more – a total of 14 families of beneficial microbes (also known as effective microorganisms or EM). They are also fermented with over 50 juices, herbs and minerals designed to boost health. Check out our range here.
Along with taking a probiotic, eat your 5-a-day and experiment with introducing more fermented and high fibre foods into your diet. Fermented foods can help bring your microbiome back into balance and fibre feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut and can help produce short-chain fatty acids that regulate the immune system.