If you're like most people you probably associate probiotics with helping to maintain a healthy digestive system and alleviate symptoms such as bloating and stomach aches. You'd be absolutely right in thinking this as studies have shown probiotics to be helpful in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and traveller's diarrhea.
Companies who produce probiotic yoghurt drinks usually focus on the digestive benefits of their products with their TV ads typically showing women bent over with stomach pain which is relieved by the probiotic drink!
What may surprise you is that probiotic bacteria are also extremely important for the health of the immune system. There is a contant dialogue going on between the bacteria in the gut and the immune system and this can have profound consequences for overall health depending on how healthy the balance of your gut bacteria is.
Studies have shown that probiotics can be of benefit in the treatment of atopic eczema and now a timely piece of research has been published demonstrating that they can also help in hayfever. As we move into June my hayfever is really starting to become a pain as I'm sure it is for many of you so I thought this would be of interest....
The research published in the journal journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy showed that probiotics were able to change the way the immune systems of hayfever sufferers reacted to grass pollen, effectively turning down the volume on the allergic reaction.
Scientists from the Institute of Food Research (IFR) in the UK randomly assigned 10 hayfever sufferers to receive either a probiotic yoghurt drink containing Lactobacillus casei Shirota or a placebo daily for 5 months.
The symptoms of hayfever result from an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE) binding to particles of pollen and triggering the release of histamine. After 5 months it was found that those hayfever sufferers who had drunk the probiotic yoghurt drink every day had significantly lower levels of IgE and other immune chemicals associated with allergies than did those sufferers who were given a placebo (yoghurt drink without the probiotic bacteria). It was also found that tose in the probiotic group also had higher levels of another type of antibody, immunoglobulin G (IgG). In contrast to IgE, IgG offers protection against allergic reactions.
Professor Claudio Nicoletti, a member of the research team said: "This was a pilot study based on small numbers of patients, but we were fascinated to discover a response." He concluded that: "The probiotic significantly reduced the production of molecules associated with allergy."
While this study was only small the researchers hope to confirm their results with a larger group of hayfever sufferers in the future. They also hope to find out if the lower levels of IgE are directly connected to a reduction in hayfever symptoms in the patients.
So it may be that instead of messing about with nasal sprays, eye drops, tablets and various other remedies...getting the better of hayfever may be as simple as drinking a tasty probiotic yoghurt drink for breakfast every day.
Only further research can prove this for sure but in the meantime getting probiotic yoghurt into your diet is sure to have a host of other benefits!