Probiotics for Treating Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergy (hay fever), clinically referred to as allergic rhinitis, is commonly associated with a plethora of unwelcome symptoms, in addition to the obvious runny nose and watery eyes. Seasonal allergy sufferers also report having a poor quality of sleep and being less productive at work or at school which can lead to emotional distress and embarrassment. Over the past 50 years there has been a steady increase in the incidence of seasonal allergy. Although there are over the counter and prescription medications used in the treatment of the symptoms of seasonal allergy, most, if not all of these medications, come with undesirable side effects such as drowsiness, sleepiness, dry mouth etc, all of which further deteriorate the allergy sufferers quality of life.

A recent report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that the consumption of probiotics is associated with a statistically significant improvement in the quality of life of the study participants. The results of this study were obtained from a well designed double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial:

Probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and ifidobacterium longum MM-2) improve rhinoconjunctivitis-specific quality of life in individuals with seasonal allergies: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial.

Probiotic is a term that has been used to relate to any microorganism (bacteria) that following ingestion is associated with beneficial effects on health. Bacteria of the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera are the most commonly associated with probiotic supplements. Within the human gastrointestinal system there are from 500 to 1000 different species of bacteria that are from three bacterial phyla: Bacteroidetes (gram-negative), Actinobacteria (gram-positive), and Firmicutes (gram-positive). Lactobacillus strains are from the Firmicutes phyla while bifidobacterium strains are members of the Actinobacteria phyla. Bar far the largest numbers of human gut bacteria are of the Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes phyla.

Consumption of probiotics has been reported to be associated with improved quality of life through reduction in gastrointestinal discomfort or through enhancement of the immune system, as well as exhibiting positive effects in allergy sufferers. However, little, if any truly rigorous scientific evidence is available to support these types of claims made by the manufacturers and sellers of probiotic supplements.

Therefore, the authors of this study set out to test the hypothesis that probiotics may improve measures of quality of life in seasonal allergy sufferers by carrying out a controlled rigorous scientific study. In the study, as indicated in the title, three different strains of probiotic bacteria were administered to the study participants, two bifidobacterium strains and a lactobacillus strain. The participants obtained the bacteria by consumption of a gelatin capsule just as one would if purchasing a probiotic supplement. The participants who received a placebo pill consumed a pill containing potato starch. All participants were healthy volunteers who were seasonal allergy sufferers ranging in age from 18 to 60 years. To properly control the outcomes of the study the participants agreed to continue their normal diet and physical lifestyles for the 8 weeks of the study and to refrain from the consumption of fermented foods, probiotics or immune-enhancing supplements.

Although the results of the study characterized numerous statistically significant differences in gastrointestinal function, levels of immune markers, and gut microbiota profiles between the placebo control group and the probiotic group, the participants who received the probiotics did indeed report significant improvement in their quality of life measures related to their seasonal allergy symptoms.

The TAKE HOME from this study is that it may be simply a matter of a daily yogurt or probiotic supplement capsule for allergy sufferers to lessen their misery.

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