Many people have seasonal allergies and/or allergies to various types of foods (namely nuts). Most probably wouldn't flinch before taking an antihistamine to help reduce the nuisance of the watery eyes, runny nose, or sneezing that one might experience when it's that time of the year for allergies. What really causes allergies? Well, recent research suggests that the answer may be uncovered in your poo...yes, you got it...your poo!
Within our intestinal tract lives over 100 trillion microorganisms. This is refered to as the gut microbiome. It is essentially a powerful "organ system" that is being researched by many across the globe; we are uncovering many of the secrets to human life that were not really clear before. Now, there is still a lot of work to be done and a lot of things are not entirely clear but there is some exciting research coming down the pipelines.
I recently reviewed one study by scientists at the National Cancer Institute. They reviewed data from the American Gut Project (http://americangut.org/). What they discovered was that in those with allergies, especially seasonal allergies and nut allergies, there was "lower richness and altered composition of their gut microbiota." We know that one of the keys to gut health is having a microbiome that is diverse, which means a nice wide spread of different kinds of bugs. What this statement means is that they found that in those with allergies, there was less diversity in the bugs found in the participants' stool samples. This concept is called dysbiosis, which basically refers to an imbalance in the bugs in your gut. People with seasonal and nut allergies were also found to have higher amounts of Bacteroidales and less Clostridialis.
So, what does all this mean? Well, it means that if you have allergies you may have an imbalance in your gut microbiome. It could mean that when you pop that allergy pill all you are doing is just covering up the problem instead of addressing the root cause of the issue, which is that your poo may not be well balanced. Certainly we need more research and studies into this particular issue. This was not a clinical trial and we need to investigate this concept further. We also need to understand how this dysbiosis is established? Does it have to do with being born vaginally or by cesearan section? Does it have to do with being breast fed or bottle fed? Does it have to do with what environmental exposures you may have had? An even more interesting question is, can allergies be prevented or symptoms reduced/eradicated with specific targeted treatment for this dysbiosis? We don't have all these answers yet. But this is definitely exciting new research.
My take on it is that we are discovering more and more that there are a lot of conditions associated with alterations in the microbiome. What we can do to help ourselves is eat a healthy, diverse diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables while including probiotic and prebiotic foods (See The Microbiome), avoiding chemicals and products that can have harmful effects on our gut bugs, and living a healthy balanced and centered life. The gut bugs are the keepers of our immune system. We need them to be happy!
Cheers to your health!
Shi J, et al. Allergy associations with the adult fecal microbiota: Analysis of the American Gut Project. EBioMedicine 3 (2016): 172-179.