Could Probiotics Be Your Best Defense Yet Against Spring Allergies?

Here's why you may want to consider taking a supplement this spring.

01_could_probioticsistock/joecicak

An estimated 10 to 30 percent of the population is living with seasonal allergies. As seasonal allergies get worse with unseasonably warm weather and pollen release, more and more people are looking for ways to augment their usual allergy treatments with alternatives. One of the therapies on the list is taking probiotics for allergies.

Probiotics are the good bacteria that live in your gut. They are often touted as helping to improve digestive issues but more research is finding that probiotics are actually beneficial for a variety of bodily functions, from mental health to immunity. In fact, a recent meta-analysis on probiotics and allergy symptoms performed by researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center found that many studies show that probiotics may help ward off allergy symptoms.

According to Dr. Justin Turner, the lead researcher on the analysis, says that while it is still unclear how probiotics help ward off allergy symptoms, “Several studies suggest that they may alter the immune system and reduce inflammatory signals that are associated with allergies.”

Seasonal allergy symptoms typically include a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes and sometimes, puffy eyes or swollen nasal passages. The study looked at the results of 23 previous trials. Overall the researchers found that probiotics seemed to benefit people that suffer from seasonal allergies, improving their symptoms, especially providing nasal relief.

Dr. Andrew Nickels, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center says, “Probiotics have been shown, in some studies, to be associated with improved symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Unfortunately, it is unclear which strains of bacteria found in the probiotics would be most helpful and the studies that have investigated this topic have shown mixed results.”

A newer study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, has found that the probiotic combination of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, sold as Kyo-Dophilus in stores, helped reduce allergy-related nose symptoms in allergy sufferers at the height of spring allergy season. The researchers, from the University of Florida, believe those probiotic strains work by boosting the body’s percentage of regulatory T-cells, which could, in turn, raise tolerance to hay fever symptoms.

Although probiotics have shown lots of promise for the future of allergy relief, they are still classified as a supplement and further is research is needed before doctors are able to recommend when and how to take probiotics for allergy relief, according to Dr. Turner.

Still, probiotics offer some hope for those who aren’t happy with the results from allergy shots—currently the best allergy medicine available—as future research is still underway.

Dr. Nickels says, regarding the future of probiotics research, “There is some evidence that taking probiotics while getting allergy shots may make the allergy shots more effective. While the current numbers of patients studied are small, there is excitement in the field that probiotics could be a helpful addition to treating allergic rhinitis.”

Probiotics are naturally present in many foods, such as yogurt and fermented foods like sauerkraut, and you can also find them as supplements.

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.