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What is the relationship between the intestinal microbiota and allergies?

Red haired woman scratching her shoulder.
Red haired woman scratching her shoulder.

Allergies are long-term inflammatory conditions where the immune system overreacts to environmental allergens, usually proteins. These trigger common allergic reactions causing conditions such as asthma, food allergies, allergic rhinitis and eczema. Symptoms range from mild discomfort to potentially life-threatening reactions, and a significantly reduced quality of life.

Occurrence of allergies

Allergic diseases are rising dramatically worldwide. Allergic rhinitis affects 15%-35% of the global population, while atopic dermatitis impacts 20-35% of children and 5-15% of adults. The exact causes are unclear, but theories point to Western lifestyles, environmental changes, and alterations in microbial exposure.

The role of the human gut microbiota

Research suggests that the composition and diversity of gut bacteria influence immune system development and function. Disruptions in the gut microbiota, from factors like diet, antibiotic use and environmental exposures, have been linked to an increased risk of allergic diseases. Specifically, changes in gut bacteria during infancy have been associated with the development of eczema and asthma later in life.

Probiotics and allergies

Despite the global rise in allergies, treatment options remain inadequate. Research suggests probiotics could restore gut balance, reducing symptoms and improving health. Specially selected probiotic strains can influence the immune system, offering promise in allergy prevention and management.

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