Food allergies, which occur when the immune system overreacts, to food proteins are becoming more common worldwide. Currently 8% of children and 5% of adults experience these allergies ranging from discomfort to life threatening anaphylaxis.
Food allergies can be either mediated by immunoglobulin (IgE) or non-IgE-mediated. In the United States, IgE-mediated allergies in children surged by 50% between 1997 and 2011. When IgE comes into play, it prompts the release of histamine through the binding of antibodies to immune cells, triggering rapid allergic reactions.
Non-IgE allergies, on the other hand, follow different immune pathways, causing slower-developing symptoms, often confined to the gastrointestinal tract.
What's the connection to the gut microbiome?
Experts have identified imbalances, in gut microbiota commonly referred to as dysbiosis as a contributor to the emergence of food allergies. Certain factors like cesarean birth, the use of antibiotics limited exposure to microbes during childhood and diets high in fat and low in carbohydrates have been linked to dysbiosis and its association, with food allergies.
Though the prevalence of food allergies is on the rise, effective treatment options remain limited. Current recommendations involve avoiding known allergens and having epinephrine on standby. However, these strategies merely address symptoms and do not tackle the root causes of food allergies.
Immunotherapy, involving gradual exposure to food triggers to build tolerance, has emerged as a more recent approach, but its effectiveness varies.
The quest for effective food allergy treatments
Given the increasing incidence and severity of food allergies and their economic impact, it is crucial to explore the gut microbiota's role and develop strategies to promote tolerance to food allergens. Modulating the gut microbiome might hold the key to alleviating food allergies and restoring allergen tolerance.
The early link between food allergy and diet
The link, between food allergies and diet appears to start in childhood. Babies who have diets that include plenty of vegetables, fruits and homemade foods during their year have a reduced chance of developing food allergies compared to those with nutritious diets. On the hand the typical American diet, which is high, in carbohydrates and lacks important nutrients is connected to a greater risk of food allergies.
Gut flora's role in food allergies
Various studies have found disparities, in the gut microbiota between individuals who have food allergies and those who don't. A functioning gut microbiome comprises a range of beneficial bacteria, including Bacteroides, Enterobacteria, Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. These bacteria interact with the system in the intestines educating the body to tolerate food triggers.
Research focused on infants and children has revealed that alterations in the composition of the gut microbiome are linked to the development of food allergies. Reduced levels of Lactobacilli and increased levels of Staphylococcus aureus have been associated with egg and milk allergies.
Supplementing infants with cows milk allergies with Lactobacillus rhamnosus has shown promise in enhancing tolerance to milk protein and reversing sensitization. Similarly older children who suffer from this allergy have experienced benefits, from Lactobacillus supplementation as it boosts the production of inflammatory cytokine IL 10 while reducing allergy symptoms.
Probiotics, which support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, alleviate food allergies through several mechanisms. They increase the number of commensal gut bacteria, which help the gut immune system tolerate food. They also reduce gut lining permeability, limiting the uptake of antigens from the gut lumen. Moreover, they modulate the immune system to promote a response that eases allergic symptoms.
Various studies have found a correlation, between the consumption of prebiotics which're substances that promote the growth of bacteria, in the digestive system and a lower occurrence of allergic conditions.
Eating a nourishing diet that includes nutrients such, as vitamin C, zinc and beta carotene has been associated with a reduced likelihood of developing food allergies. On the hand diets that are high in processed carbohydrates and additives might make someone more susceptible, to food allergies.
Genetically modified foods
Although conclusive evidence is lacking, some researchers suspect that genetically modified foods may predispose individuals to food allergies due to potentially allergenic modified proteins.
The future of food allergy management
The study of mechanisms related to food allergies has expanded as the number of these allergies has increased. The majority of scientists concur that the intestinal microbiota plays a part in how the immune system reacts, to food allergens.
Ongoing progress is being made in understanding the connection between the composition of gut microbiota and food allergies. This research could potentially shed light on the cause effect relationship, between the microbiome and food allergies, which may help predict whether children will eventually outgrow their allergies or not.