Hello spring, hello allergies! As spring approaches, so do allergies for many people. April holds the Allergy Awareness Week which takes place between the 23rd – 29th April 2018.
What is an allergy?
An allergy is a type of response our body’s immune system produces to certain substances (allergens). In most people, these allergens pose no problem but in allergic individuals, their immune system identifies them as a risk and creates a negative response.
It is estimated that 21 million people in the UK live with allergic disease. The most common causes of allergic reactions include pollen from plants and grasses, proteins from house dust mites, pets, insects (wasps and bees), some medication, moulds and food (most commonly milk, nuts, eggs).
What causes an allergic reaction?
When an individual comes into contact with an allergen, an antibody response is produced. These antibodies release substances, one example being histamine, which can produce reactions in an individual’s body.
Many different symptoms can be experienced, including anything from rashes, swellings, itching, breathing difficulties to even complete anaphylactic shock, which can be dangerous in the extreme or even fatal. Most allergies are of the former kind but this can be annoying, life-limiting or giving rise to depression in some badly-afflicted individuals.
Gut microbiome and allergies
Many microbiological studies indicate that allergies have a strong correlation to altered gut microbial colonization in very early life.
The hygiene hypothesis states that improvements in hygiene levels lead to reduced contact with microbes, which means our immune systems do not get to know these microbes in early life and thus an increased incidence in allergies and autoimmune diseases as a result of an over-reaction when we encounter them later on.
Evidently, individuals who have been exposed to a range of beneficial microbial exposure in early life, tend to have lower immune system defects because they have a diversity in their gut flora. Infants delivered vaginally are colonised with a microbiome similar to their mother’s vaginal tract enriched with Snethia and Lactobacillus species. Being breastfed, growing up in a household with pets and living in a rural, farm-like environment are other factors that influence gut microbiota.
Studies conducted on mice indicate that the composition of gut microbiota shapes the rate and pattern of the development of our immune function; the exposure of bacteria in early life can reduce susceptibility to allergies and often inflammation. Conversely, use of antibiotics, formula milk, high fat low fibre diet can reduce the immune response and trigger allergies.
At Taymount, we encourage consuming a diverse diet to ensure a wide range of gut microbes. Additionally, by implanting beneficial intestinal bacteria such as Clostridium and Bacteroides from a healthy donor, FMT can modulate gut bacteria to aid optimal gut functionality, and also enhance the production of the T-regulatory cells that are essential for immune tolerance.
FMT Nutritional Therapist
Nutritionist BSc Hons, ANutr
- Knight, R. and Buhler, B. (2015). Follow your gut. New York: Ted Books, Simon & Schuster.
- Lynch, S. and Boushey, H. (2016). The microbiome and development of allergic disease. Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology, [online] 16(2), pp.165-171. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5378446/ [Accessed 20 Mar. 2018].
- Penders, J., Gerhold, K., Thijs, C., Zimmermann, K., Wahn, U., Lau, S. and Hamelmann, E. (2014). New insights into the hygiene hypothesis in allergic diseases. Gut Microbes, 5(2), pp.239-244.
- Allergyuk.org. (2018). Allergy Awareness Week 2018. [online] Available at: https://www.allergyuk.org/about/latest-news/602-allergy-awareness-week-2018 [Accessed 20 Mar. 2018].