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Aug 27, 2014 06:49 PM

Can Good Gut Bacteria Protect Against Food Allergies?

There has been evidence that gut flora has a role in allergies for some years now. But this is the first study I've seen wherein some of the important bacteria (various clostridium species) were identified. And also the first where colonizing the subjects' (mice) GI tracts actually caused a reversal of allergy symptoms (for peanut allergies, specifically).

Of course, this was an animal study and not a new treatment approved for humans, but it's encouraging nonetheless.

Here is an abstract of the study itself:

Can Good Gut Bacteria Protect Against Food Allergies?

A new study shows that the presence of Clostridia, a common class of gut bacteria, protects against food allergies in mice, suggesting that probiotic...
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  1. All the things we know about the world on which we live, the oceans, the galaxy...

    .. and yet right here, literally just a short distance under our noses, lives this entire self-contained universe about which we know nothing, but is promising to change the way we look at our health and wellness.

    Truly fascinating stuff.

    1. Really interesting piece, cowboy.

      I don't have allergies and I have an iron constitution. I eat and drink everything (just about) all over the world. And NEVER get sick. (Knock wood!) I take few food precautions, use hand sanitizers only on cruise ships where they pretty much force you to, avoid antibiotics unless given a true medical reason for them, i.e., my dog accidentally bit me and the doctor said 50% of dog bites get infected. I've always thought there had to be a relationship. That "natural flora and fauna" is there for a reason.

      21 Replies
      1. re: c oliver

        You have more bacterial cells in your body than your own (human) cells. True story.

        1. re: cowboyardee

          I consider them an essential part of my body! When I was on that really strong antibiotic for the dog bite, it wiped out a lot of the little things and that was really, really unpleasant. They forgot to mention that I should have taken probiotics while on the med. I bet the germophobes get sick a lot more than the "magic house" folks :)

          1. re: c oliver

            generally, they do.

            The germophobes' kids have higher incidence of allergies and infections, too, because their immune systems are never given the chance to strengthen on their own.

            1. re: sunshine842

              I've read that studies have shown children who grow up with dogs (or was it any animal?) have a much lower incidence of asthma. I wonder how many people have changed their behaviors in light of things like this.

              1. re: sunshine842

                That's a ridiculous conclusion I've seen too many places.

                Unless those kids are kept indoors full time, in a sterile bubble, their exposures are as high as anyone's.

                There is a dose effect; normal exposure to contact can desensitize and build immunity over time. Excess can lead to sickness. That's why poor, urban kids have so much worse asthma; one known contributor is the super highly antigenic presence of cockroach feces and other mold conditions in their homes.

                And every family has differing immunocompetence, tends to be inherited, so for instance, a friend who gets ill very easily became a germophobe as a result, as many folks do who were not overly concerned before their health or allergies worsen.

                I'm no germophobe, don't mind digging in soil, spending time getting dirty and handling bugs, etc. But I'm very conscious of avoiding undesirable exposures as part of my routine, without being nuts about it. I get sick less than anyone I know, and so did my kid, who grew up in a clean, not germ free home and neighborhood.

                1. re: mcf

                  "Unless those kids are kept indoors full time, in a sterile bubble, their exposures are as high as anyone's."

                  Citation please.

                  Children who are given antibiotics for every little thing, using hand sanitizers constantly, etc. are running the chance of screwing up their immune system. And, if they're doing that, it's likely that their parents are making them do it. I thought by now everyone knew that.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    I never said anything in favor of excess antibiotics, just about faulty interpretations and poor consideration of the breadth of variables when making assessments about why some kids are more likely to get sick a lot.

                    And a lot of folks become germophobic after getting sick a lot, not the other way around. It may not help, but it's not a cause of illness, either.

                    1. re: mcf

                      I asked about the "hygiene hypothesis" to our old allergist who was one of the lead researchers at National Jewish Health. He gave me this "are you f'in kidding me lady?" As he mentioned it was a good start in identifying the issues revolving around food allergies and asthma, it was not the solution and it was and is a school of thought not to be completely dismissed but not all subscribe to it. even the professionals. This was back in 2011-12. They have evolved now to the gut microbe.

                      Its just not that simple and we allergy people wish it was. My son is 6 and has had antibiotics 3 times in his life for ear infections. They were all taken way after his allergy diagnosis. I've owned a total of maybe 3 small bottles of hand sanitizer since his birth. He also doesn't have asthma. The cleanliness holds as much water as the vaccine autism connection as my friend (who is also an MD-pediatric researcher) has mentioned in jest but I'm pretty sure she's serious too.

                      1. re: trolley

                        "They have evolved now to the gut microbe.

                        Its just not that simple..."
                        To be honest, it's too early to say that with any authority. The relevant tests have not yet been performed on human subjects, but if colonization with the right types of clostridium bacteria actually cause a reversal of allergy symptoms in people as the above study suggests it does in mice, then that's a pretty huge step forward.

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          I agree it's a huge step and I do hope it's that simple. but in my armchair mom theory (which I admit is as credible as the autism-vaccine connection) is that genetics is a part of it. my mom is severely allergic to shellfish. I come with seasonal allergies as well as all cats and dog. oh and I developed an anaphylactic response to peaches in my 30's so they're off limits now. i'm not surprised my kid has allergies too.

              2. re: c oliver

                C oliver, care to share if you have any experience on how to replenish those little guys? ;-) I wish my doctors knew or cared enough to tell me about the probiotics too. For my case, it was too late and it looks like none of the probiotics wants to colonize in my body now.

                1. re: vil

                  Unfortunately, it's not an area wherein I have enough expertise to give you a really great answer. I can give you a basic outline of my understanding of the current state of gut flora issues, but anyone who knows more (especially if you have reliable sources of info you can link to) is welcome to chime in or correct me.


                  There are a few problems with probiotic treatments as they stand today:

                  1) We're not really sure yet which bacteria do what or how different bacterial species interact with each other
                  2) Getting bacteria to reliably colonize the upper GI tract might be difficult
                  3) Getting bacteria to reliably colonize the lower GI tract might be even more difficult
                  4) Most of the probiotics on the market currently are for lactobacillus species, which probably only scratches the surface of the complexity of a normal, healthy human mix of GI flora.
                  5) How exactly a specific antibiotic or other medical treatment interacts with a various bacterial species or ratios can be either difficult or impossible to predict.

                  In other words, as far as I know, a lot of this field of study is in its infancy. It will take time to learn more, and then for that knowledge to trickle down to the level of health care providers, and also to the market. I know offhand that fecal transplant (which is exactly what it sounds like) has been promising in treating a few conditions, especially C Diff infection, but I don't know enough to tell you about more specific concerns with that kind of procedure or other possible uses, etc.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    I've just learned that some of the most common strains of lactobacillus used in probiotics actually promote immune dysregulation in the gut. Tossed out supps with those. They are: Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, and Lactobacillus reuteri

                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      I have been reading a lot on this and yes, after the initial excitement on discovering that probiotics helps with a lot of my issues, I was disappointed, after a few years of experimenting, that there is no magic brand that can restore what is lost. It is becoming another costly medication that I have to depend on. The reasons boil down to what you mentioned, that the knowledge of probiotics is only in its infancy.

                      I doubt that I want to wait that long for the technology to be available (another 5-10 years?) but the great thing is most of this information is available at our fingertips, on the research on FT for example ;-)

                      #4 is so true. For now, it might be more productive to look backwards (into human history) and seek solutions from all those traditional foods rich in good bacteria, including fermented and raw.

                      1. re: calumin

                        Thank you. However, the book appears to be focused on how to lose weight, which is the exact opposite of what I am trying to do.

                        On the other hand, I have been on and off following a diet of what the author has been suggesting, though (high fat, Paleo, fermented foods, enzymes, certain supplements etc.) and wondering if it is restoring gut health (my goal), or making it hard for me to gain weight (the goal of the author's intended readers but not mine).

                        1. re: vil

                          Well the book is actually focused on how to rebuild your microbiome, but it clearly talks a lot about combating obesity as one of the beneficial side effects of his approach. His approach isn't designed to lose weight per se -- it is designed to rebuild your bacterial makeup, with all of the various health benefits that it brings (e.g. combating metabolic syndrome, etc).

                          I think it would be hard to stay on his diet strictly and also gain substantial weight. He actually says that you can deviate from the diet a lot (10% of the time after 3 weeks, 30% of the time after 7 weeks) -- you could deviate more and eat foods that help you bulk up.

                          If your goal is to restore gut health, I'd look at some of the supplements he recommends as well as he recommended super foods.

                          1. re: calumin

                            Yes, you are right about the book's focus. It just bothers me that there is mention of losing weight on what felt like every other page. I had to mentally pause every so often, and ask myself whether I was reading the right book ;-)

                            I am interested in butyrate, highly recommended there, but guess what, I just learned today that it is no longer readily available where I live, because Health Canada is limiting OTC supplements.

                            On the other hand, butter has a lot of that. Inspired by the advice in the book, I made a meal out of garlicky kimchi, natto and seaweed, served on a bed of heavily buttered rice. That felt mighty good.

                2. re: c oliver

                  I used to be like you now - having an iron stomach, being able to eat just about anything and almost never got sick. Until a few years back, when I took a round of antibiotics which, in retrospect, was probably so strong it wiped so most of the beneficial gut flora, that even now, I still have not recuperated from it.

                  I would not give it a second's thought to swallow yet another pill that gives some promise of restoring that. All the remedies I tried give only a temporary effect at best.

                  Mine is an extreme case and I understand it probably rarely happens (to lose the majority of one's beneficial gut flora), but everyone please take good care of your flora because it is definitely key to good health ;-)

                  1. re: vil

                    I can understand that. After the super strong antibiotic, I think I'd have suffered more consequences if I hadn't had medical background and figured out the subtle symptoms that some might have missed.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Good for you to have that background to be able to save yourself in time! I preach about the precautionary steps of using antibiotics to everyone these days, because it is horrible to be stuck in the state where I am now, with no solution.

                3. I'm pretty interested in this stuff. It's a hot topic, in general, particularly is the area of ancestral health. I'm going to avoid the overly simplistic sound bites and just point to a couple of podcasts, for those who might be interested. It's pretty geeky stuff, though. Nerds only. :^)



                  Edit: These are of general microbiome subject matter, not particularly allergy focused.