Could something as simple as eating probiotic foods really help to ease your hay fever?
- American scientists tested theory involving 1,900 people based on 23 randomised studies involving probiotic bacteria.
- Found probiotic foods could alter disease severity and ease symptoms.
- Research could help the one in five people who suffer from pollen allergy.
If you’re struggling with itchy eyes and bouts of sneezing this spring, reach for a pot of yogurt and eat it! Probiotic foods, which contain the ‘friendly’ bacteria found in ‘live’ yogurt, not only help with digestion but can ease hay fever, according to research. Such help would make life so much easier for students during exam time for example. About one in five people suffer hay fever to differing extents. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation, or AAFA, states that roughly 50 million Americans experience all kinds of allergies, including allergy to dander, pollen, food and drugs. Allergy also ranks 5th among chronic diseases in U.S. in all age groups and ranks 3rd in chronic diseases among people below 18 years old.
It is thought the probiotics may influence the behaviour of white blood cells – thereby boosting the immune system. The researchers led by Dr. Justin Turner, an ear-nose-and-throat specialist from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Tennessee discovered that in 17 of the 23 randomised trials, there was a dramatic improvement for hay fever sufferers compared to the placebo. The research was reported in the International Forum of Allergy and Rhinology journal. The participants were either ingesting probiotic supplements or food items rich in probiotics. The studies used various live bacteria strains given at different dosages. Researchers also used different formulations of probiotic supplement during different time frames. All these factors made it difficult for the researchers to make formal recommendations on the use of probiotic foods for people suffering from seasonal allergies, according to Turner.
It is worth noting that six studies did not show any benefit in relieving the hay fever symptoms.
The team stated in their news announcement: “The current study suggests that probiotics have the potential to alter disease severity, symptoms and quality of life in patients with allergic rhinitis (hay fever).’ Also important: there were ‘no significant adverse effects’ in consuming the bacteria.
Hay fever affects about one in five people to differing extents, and is triggered by pollen proteins which cause swelling and irritation in the nose, eyes and throat. While the protective properties of probiotics are not completely understood, they are believed to influence the activity of T cells – a type of white blood cell crucial to the immune system.
The team commented: ‘The role of probiotics in the human response remains poorly understood and additional studies will likely be needed to clarify this in the future.’ Standard treatments still have to be applied but there is hope for a more acceptable preventative strategy.