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Probiotics for allergies: Myth or reality?

The ground is finally starting to thaw and you don’t regret going outside without a jacket. You’re about to throw out your arms and celebrate the changing of the seasons, when you start to feel a sneeze coming on.

Now you know for sure that spring is in the air.

At least 30% of adults in the U.S. experience seasonal allergies. Common allergy symptoms, like sneezing, itchy eyes and nose, and congestion, can range anywhere from a mild inconvenience that puts a damper on your spring plans to something that affects the way you live your life.

It’s little surprise, then, that so-called remedies for allergies are as varied as the people who experience them. Recently, probiotics have come to light as a possible way to address symptoms. We’ll dig into why that is below.

How allergies work

Seasonal allergies are caused by an allergic reaction to pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds that are present at certain times of the year, as well as pet dander, dust, and mold. When these allergens are inhaled, they trigger an immune response in the body, which is what causes all the sneezing, sniffling, and itching.

This type of reaction doesn’t happen to everyone—most people can enjoy nature without any adverse effects. But others aren’t so fortunate, because their immune system is essentially overreacting to the pollen the body ingests. The immune system sees these harmless allergens as a threat, so it produces an immune response to neutralize them. Which is not so pleasant for the person experiencing that response.

Allergies and gut health

The evidence supporting the importance of a healthy microbiome only grows as we learn more about the role gut health plays on overall health, including how our bodies respond to seasonal changes. Since the gut houses the greatest density of immune cells in the body, a healthy gut, supported by a well-balanced diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, prebiotics, and probiotics, helps support the immune system, and research shows that this can have an effect on seasonal symptoms, as well.

How probiotics support gut health

Which brings us back to probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms, often bacteria, that naturally reside in fermented foods like Greek yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut. These are the “good” bacteria our bodies need to help keep the microbiome balanced.

Many studies have been conducted to see what effect probiotics have on allergies. A 2016 study found that probiotics helped reduce seasonal discomforts like nasal and eye symptoms. While it’s unclear exactly which probiotic strains have the biggest effect on allergy symptoms, a 2022 study found that eight of nine probiotic strains had a positive effect on at least one symptom of seasonal allergies.

It's important to note that probiotics aren’t a cure for allergies, but they can help address common symptoms.

Good food sources for probiotics

Yogurt is perhaps the most well-known source of probiotics. Look for plain yogurt that contains live and active cultures of beneficial bacteria and that is low in added sugars. Other fermented products, like kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi, are also good probiotic sources.

A probiotic supplement like Probionic Plus is another way to make sure you’re getting more of the good bacteria to keep your gut happy.

Don’t underestimate the power of a well-balanced diet on gut health, either. A diet rich in whole grains, legumes, and vegetables will support gut health, helping you get a good variety of nutrients.

The verdict: Probiotics support overall health

Most allergy sufferers have more than one technique for keeping allergy symptoms under control. Early prep for many is key, as well as nasal sprays and antihistamines. Many use probiotics as another tool in their symptoms-management toolbox. At the end of the day though, whether you experience seasonal allergies or not, it’s always a good idea to make sure your diet includes probiotics, as they’re one of the best ways to support immune and gut health. Consult with your healthcare provider before making any major changes to your diet.

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