In recent years we’ve witnessed a startling growth in probiotic products in our supermarkets – mainly in the form of probiotic yoghurts dominating dairy departments.
Probiotics, of course, are bacteria lining the digestive tract which help the body absorb nutrients and fight off infection.
Although primarily known for strengthening immunity and aiding digestive health, a new study by the University of Florida recommends probiotics for hay fever sufferers.
Probiotics for Hay Fever: The 2017 Study
As spring dawns, hay fever sufferers prepare for their annual struggle against the commingling scents of flowers and blossoms thickening the air.
27% of UK residents suffer from the allergy, meaning a quarter of us are, in all likelihood, none too pleased to see the back of a cold, dark winter.
Hay fever symptoms are typically treated with over-the-counter medications like antihistamines, although corticosteroid nasal sprays and drops are also deployed for their anti-inflammatory effects.
Some swerve the pharmacy altogether and swear by home remedies such as eucalyptus oil and chamomile tea. Ultimately it’s a case of finding what works for you and alleviating symptoms the best way you can.
In 2017, a new weapon against hay fever has come to our attention: probiotics. For hay fever sufferers, the news is a proverbial shot in the arm. The research was conducted by the University of Florida, with scientists keen to test the theory that a combination of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria could synergistically alleviate the troublesome symptoms of the allergy.
Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the double-blind clinical study looked at 173 healthy adults who suffer from seasonal allergies. Dividing the volunteers into two groups, researchers gave one a combination probiotic (3 billion colony-forming units per day) and the other a placebo.
Over a period of eight weeks, volunteers completed regular online surveys to document their level of seasonal discomfort.
While the questionnaires proved instructive, scientists also studied DNA from stool samples to assess how the bacteria changed. After eight weeks, the probiotic group cited improvements in quality of life and fewer allergy-related nasal symptoms.
Less constipation was also noted and the overall difference was said to be ‘statistically significant’.
Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are known to produce anti-inflammatory fatty acids as well as other metabolites which seem to reduce the inflammation provoked by hay fever. Probiotics additionally stimulate the production of regulatory T cells – white blood cell subtypes which play a key role in cell-mediated immunity.
The advantages of probiotic supplements for hay fever sufferers are obvious, although the exact molecular mechanisms have yet to be established. Of course, this isn’t the first trial assessing the efficacy of probiotics as they pertain to allergies.
A 2015 Finnish study found that taking probiotics in advance of pollen season reduced symptoms in children allergic to birch pollen. The group who received a combination probiotic – the same used in the University of Florida study – reported fewer runny noses and nasal blocking over a four-month period.
The Best Probiotic Foods
If the prospect of a sniffling season of discontent is getting you down, why not incorporate probiotic foods into your diet?
But don’t just consume probiotics for hay fever: consume them for their positive contributions to digestion, energy production and healthy skin. Studies show that probiotics can even help improve sleep and aid weight loss.
Probiotic-rich foods include cultured vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi, organic Greek yoghurt (ideally from grass-fed goat’s or sheep’s milk), salted gherkin pickles and apple cider vinegar. The latter also helps to control blood pressure and cholesterol.
Probiotic Supplements for Hay Fever
You can also get probiotics from supplements. Progurt is the most advanced currently available. The clinically tested super-strength supplement delivers an unprecedented 1 trillion CFU (Colony Forming Units) to aid digestive health and rebalance gut microflora.
Given that most probiotics contain just 10 or 20 billion probiotics, Progurt is light years ahead of the competition. It's also the only supplement whose bacteria is entirely human-derived, making it perfect for colonisation of the gastrointestinal tract.
Research into gut bacteria and probiotics’ effect on allergies is sure to continue. With a high-strength supplement and/or probiotic-foods, we hope seasonal allergies become a thing of the past; or at the very least, that symptoms become much more bearable!