Before you grab that decongestant to subdue your sinus congestion or antihistamine to stop the sneezing linked to spring allergies, you might want to give your gut some attention. More and more research shows that probiotics can reduce allergy symptoms and may even prevent allergic conditions altogether if they are started early in life. But not just any probiotic will do; with thousands of probiotic strains available, it’s important to choose the ones that have an anti-allergy effect. The right probiotic strains can heal the intestinal walls and reduce low-grade inflammation in the gut, but also prevent or reduce allergies.
The ideal time to be introduced to beneficial allergy-preventing strains of bacteria is actually before birth. Research in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology shows that when a pregnant woman consumes probiotic-rich milk or yogurt during pregnancy, an infant or child is less likely to suffer from allergic conditions such as eczema or rhinoconjunctivitis.
Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis (ARC) involves inflammation of the nose, sinuses and eyes, and is the most common allergic condition. Symptoms usually involved nasal congestion or blockage, burning or itchy eyes, tearing, eye redness, itchy nose, watery mucus and sneezing. It is also frequently linked to sinus and ear problems, along with asthma. The probiotics found in the milk and yogurt products used in the study were found to contain Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus rhamnosus.
Obviously, it’s just not possible to go back in time to get sufficient beneficial microbes during fetal development but probiotics can help to prevent or reverse allergy symptoms and conditions when taken during adulthood as well.
Scientists at the Osaka University School of Medicine found that ingestion of the probiotic Lactobacillus casei (L. casei) delayed the occurrence of allergy symptoms. It was also effective at reducing nasal and sinus congestion linked to allergies. The scientists published their double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical results in the medical journal International Archives of Allergy and Immunology. Their results showed that certain probiotics such as Lactobacillus casei could significantly reduce allergy symptoms and delay the occurrence of allergy symptoms.
Other research published in the medical journal Advanced Therapeutics showed that consumption of a particular beneficial yeast could reduce allergic-induced nasal congestion. In this study, researchers gave participants 500 mg of a dried Saccharomyces cerevisiae product known as EpiCor during a 12-week period with the highest recorded concentrations of total pollen counts for the Midwest area in which the study was conducted. Even during the highest pollen counts the probiotic product significantly reduced allergy symptoms, especially nasal congestion. EpiCor is the name of the fermented Saccharomyces cerevisiae that is used in numerous products, not the name of a specific product.
Unlike drug products, antihistamines and decongestants you take when symptoms are severe, the probiotic-based approach works differently. Probiotics are best taken on a daily basis (follow package instructions of the specific product(s) you select) before and during allergy season. Select products that contain the specific probiotic strains mentioned in this article, as others have not been tested for effectiveness against seasonal allergies. For more information about fermented foods, check out my article, “25 Ways to Get More Fermented Foods in Your Diet.”
Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is a registered nutritionist and international best-selling and 19-time published book author whose works include: The Probiotic Promise: Simple Steps to Heal Your Body from the Inside Out.