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Using your gut bacteria to prevent (and treat) allergies

By Casey Thaler, B.A., NASM-CPT, FNS
September 6, 2020
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Millions of Americans suffer from some form of allergy. Millions more have conditions that worsen with certain environmental triggers.[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

It's common for those with food allergies, for example, to take a drug to alleviate their symptoms—even if they are allergic to something as common as wheat. Fortunately, a recent study may represent a breakthrough for those who suffer from this very common condition. [7] [8]

Researchers have discovered a specific species of bacteria in the gut that helps to protect against food allergies. Scientists hope that by targeting this bacteria they may be able to eradicate food allergies before they start, or more effectively treat them. When you learn about the many conditions that are linked to disruptions in the microbiome, including depression and other mental health issues, it shouldn't be surprising that the microbiome is also linked to food allergies. [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21]

Today, for those that suffer from severe food allergies, the best way to avoid a possible emergency room visit is to avoid inflammatory food entirely. [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] In this new study, researchers found that by giving subjects specific types of bacteria found in the gut, they were able to protect against food allergies—as well as reverse cases of established food allergies.

While this study was conducted on mice, the hope is that it will also translate to humans.

“This represents a sea change in our approach to therapeutics for food allergies," said study co-author, Lynn Bry, M.D., Ph.D. "We've identified the microbes that are associated with protection and ones that are associated with food allergies in patients. If we administer defined consortia representing the protective microbes as a therapeutic, not only can we prevent food allergies from happening, but we can reverse existing food allergies in preclinical models. With these microbes, we are resetting the immune system."

For millions of food allergy sufferers, this is a substantial scientific breakthrough. While there are hundreds of species of bacteria in our guts, Georg Gerber, M.D., Ph.D., and co-author of the study said they were able to use computational approaches to narrow the list to a specific group of microbes that are associated with protective properties against food allergies.

Assuming it translates to humans, this research provides promising evidence that we may be able to eliminate or at least reduce the effects of food allergies. And while we still recommend against consuming things like wheat or gluten—allergies or no allergies—for those who are violently allergic to them, accidental exposure would no longer provoke an immune response. [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] [35]

In the meantime, as always, eating a true Paleo Diet® can help you avoid the adverse effects of many food allergies. By eliminating culprits like dairy, wheat, and processed foods from your diet—thus, avoiding many of the known trigger foods of a Western approach to eating—you are also eliminating the possibility of any allergic reaction, while reaping the full benefits of the key nutrients of a healthy diet. [36] [37] [38] [39] [40]

References

[1] Yu W, Freeland DMH, Nadeau KC. Food allergy: immune mechanisms, diagnosis and immunotherapy. Nat Rev Immunol. 2016;16(12):751-765.

[2] Boyce JA, et al. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of food allergy in the United States: report of the NIAID-sponsored expert panel. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 2010;126:S1–58.

[3] Gupta RS, et al. The prevalence, severity, and distribution of childhood food allergy in the United States. Pediatrics. 2011;128:e9–e17.

[4] Licari A, Manti S, Marseglia A, et al. Food Allergies: Current and Future Treatments. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019;55(5)

[5] Berni Canani R., Sangwan N., Stefka A.T., Nocerino R., Paparo L., Aitoro R., Calignano A., Khan A.A., Gilbert J.A., Nagler C.R. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG-supplemented formula expands butyrate-producing bacterial strains in food allergic infants. ISME J. 2016;10:742–750. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2015.151.

[6] Cuello-Garcia C.A., Brozek J.L., Fiocchi A., Pawankar R., Yepes-Nuñez J.J., Terracciano L., Gandhi S., Agarwal A., Zhang Y., Schünemann H.J. Probiotics for the prevention of allergy: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2015;136:952–961. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2015.04.031.

[7] Abdel-Gadir, A., Stephen-Victor, E., Gerber, G.K. et al. Microbiota therapy acts via a regulatory T cell MyD88/RORγt pathway to suppress food allergy. Nat Med 25, 1164–1174 (2019).

[8] New therapy targets gut bacteria to prevent and reverse food allergies. (2020, August 1). ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190624111545.htm

[9] Shreiner AB, Kao JY, Young VB. The gut microbiome in health and in disease. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2015;31(1):69-75.

[10] Kostic AD, Xavier RJ, Gevers D. The microbiome in inflammatory bowel disease: current status and the future ahead. Gastroenterology. 2014 May;146(6):1489–99. PubMed PMID: 24560869. Pubmed Central PMCID: 4034132.

[11] Hills RD, Pontefract BA, Mishcon HR, Black CA, Sutton SC, Theberge CR. Gut Microbiome: Profound Implications for Diet and Disease. Nutrients. 2019;11(7)

[12] Mohajeri MH, Brummer RJM, Rastall RA, et al. The role of the microbiome for human health: from basic science to clinical applications. Eur J Nutr. 2018;57(Suppl 1):1-14.

[13] Liu X, Cao S, Zhang X. Modulation of Gut Microbiota-Brain Axis by Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Diet. J Agric Food Chem. 2015;63(36):7885-95.

[14] Kho ZY, Lal SK. The Human Gut Microbiome - A Potential Controller of Wellness and Disease. Front Microbiol. 2018;9:1835.

[15] Durack J, Lynch SV. The gut microbiome: Relationships with disease and opportunities for therapy. J Exp Med. 2019;216(1):20-40.

[16] Rinninella E, Raoul P, Cintoni M, et al. What is the Healthy Gut Microbiota Composition? A Changing Ecosystem across Age, Environment, Diet, and Diseases. Microorganisms. 2019;7(1)

[17] Macqueen G, Surette M, Moayyedi P. The gut microbiota and psychiatric illness. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2017;42(2):75-77.

[18] Appleton J. The Gut-Brain Axis: Influence of Microbiota on Mood and Mental Health. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2018;17(4):28-32.

[19] Peirce JM, Alviña K. The role of inflammation and the gut microbiome in depression and anxiety. J Neurosci Res. 2019;97(10):1223-1241.

[20] Winter G, Hart RA, Charlesworth RPG, Sharpley CF. Gut microbiome and depression: what we know and what we need to know. Rev Neurosci. 2018;29(6):629-643.

[21] Cheung SG, Goldenthal AR, Uhlemann AC, Mann JJ, Miller JM, Sublette ME. Systematic Review of Gut Microbiota and Major Depression. Front Psychiatry. 2019;10:34.

[22] Costa C, Coimbra A, Vítor A, Aguiar R, Ferreira AL, Todo-bom A. Food allergy-From food avoidance to active treatment. Scand J Immunol. 2020;91(1):e12824.

[23] Robison RG, Singh AM. Controversies in Allergy: Food Testing and Dietary Avoidance in Atopic Dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2019;7(1):35-39.

[24] Abrams EM, Sicherer SH. Diagnosis and management of food allergy. CMAJ. 2016;188(15):1087-1093.

[25] Licari A, Manti S, Marseglia A, et al. Food Allergies: Current and Future Treatments. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019;55(5)

[26] Wang J. Management of the patient with multiple food allergies. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2010;10(4):271-7.

[27] Cianferoni A. Wheat allergy: diagnosis and management. J Asthma Allergy. 2016;9:13-25.

[28] Statovci D, Aguilera M, Macsharry J, Melgar S. The Impact of Western Diet and Nutrients on the Microbiota and Immune Response at Mucosal Interfaces. Front Immunol. 2017;8:838.

[29] Kopp W. How Western Diet And Lifestyle Drive The Pandemic Of Obesity And Civilization Diseases. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2019;12:2221-2236.

[30] Myles IA. Fast food fever: reviewing the impacts of the Western diet on immunity. Nutr J. 2014;13:61.

[31] Shi Z. Gut Microbiota: An Important Link between Western Diet and Chronic Diseases. Nutrients. 2019;11(10)

[32] Christ A, Lauterbach M, Latz E. Western Diet and the Immune System: An Inflammatory Connection. Immunity. 2019;51(5):794-811.

[33] De Angelis, M., Ferrocino, I., Calabrese, F.M. et al. Diet influences the functions of the human intestinal microbiome. Sci Rep 10, 4247 (2020).

[34] Ricci G, Andreozzi L, Cipriani F, Giannetti A, Gallucci M, Caffarelli C. Wheat Allergy in Children: A Comprehensive Update. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019;55(7)

[35] Johnston LK, Chien KB, Bryce PJ. The immunology of food allergy. J Immunol. 2014;192(6):2529-34.

[36] Klonoff DC. The beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on type 2 diabetes and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2009;3(6):1229-32.

[37] Genoni, A., Christophersen, C.T., Lo, J. et al. Long-term Paleolithic diet is associated with lower resistant starch intake, different gut microbiota composition and increased serum TMAO concentrations. Eur J Nutr 59, 1845–1858 (2020).

[38] Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Ahrén B, et al. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2009;8:35.

[39] Manheimer EW, Van zuuren EJ, Fedorowicz Z, Pijl H. Paleolithic nutrition for metabolic syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;102(4):922-32.

[40] Olivieri C. Combating insulin resistance with the paleo diet. Nurse Pract. 2019;44(2):49-55.

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