Study links good gut health to reduced risk of food allergies
Hope could be on the horizon for those with food allergies – equivalent to one to two per cent of adults, or around two million people, in the UK. They can cause everything from itching and stomach upset to a life-threatening reaction, and are different from food intolerances which only affect the digestive system and therefore cause less severe (but still very bothersome) symptoms.
But back to the new study, who indicated that the gut may hold the key to preventing – and even reversing – certain food allergies, including peanuts. Researchers from the University of Chicago have found that the presence of certain beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome can help sufferers.
Scientists are convinced that there is a link between gut bacteria and food allergies, and that if the former is out of balance – triggering ‘dysbiosis’ – it could cause the latter as levels of particular microbes decline. They think the microbe in question is Clostridia, which also plays a role in inflammatory bowel disease.
Researchers think they know the connection – Clostridia produces a metabolite called butyrate. In addition to being important for promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria, this compound also helps protect the integrity of the walls that line the gut to prevent food from leaking out and possibly causing an allergic reaction.
The problem is that, until now, scientists haven’t figured out how to increase Clostridia levels in the gut through oral or fecal supplements. Thus, the researchers at the University of Chicago – after a long digestion – had the brain idea to bring the butyrate directly into the intestine. As they revealed in a presentation to the American Chemical Association over the weekend, it has so far worked well in treating food allergies in mice.
Which sounds very promising for humans, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, while the mice didn’t seem to care too much, butyrate currently doesn’t make for the most palatable of possible future supplements. ‘[It] has a very bad smell, like dog poop and rancid butter, and it also has a bad taste, so people wouldn’t want to swallow it,” acknowledged the study’s first author, Dr. Shijie Cao.
In order to make it a product that people will want to ingest, researchers are now investigating how best to mask the flavor and smell. They hope that one day someone with any kind of food allergy will be able to open a packet containing a new and improved butyrate blend to drink with water or juice. Just like those other probiotic supplements or drinks already on the market promising to give your digestive system some TLC.
Food allergies aside, taking care of your gut health is extremely vital. It boosts everything from your immune system to your mood and helps you absorb essential nutrients to keep your body properly fueled. Here are some of the best probiotics to invest in and, as always, eat a healthy, balanced diet. and a varied diet is essential.
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