food allergens

The Role of Gut Bacteria in Allergies

More than half of Americans live with allergies; and about 15 million of these people, including 5.9 million children, have food allergies. A food allergy occurs when one’s immune system identifies a food or substance that is ingested as a danger to the body, causing it to overreact. 

Symptoms of food allergy vary from mild side effects such as itching and hives to severe side effects such as constriction, tightening in the airways, hypotension, and even death. While many types of food can trigger allergic reactions, about 90% of food allergies are caused by the following:

  1. Milk
  2. Eggs
  3. Peanuts
  4. Tree nuts
  5. Soy
  6. Wheat
  7. Fish
  8. Shellfish

Food Allergy Treatment with Oral Immunotherapy (OIT)

In the past, the management of food allergy centered exclusively on strict avoidance. Allergen-specific oral immunotherapy (OIT) aims to induce desensitization leading to tolerance and eventually sustained unresponsiveness to foods that patients have been found to be sensitized to by skin or blood testing. This innovative treatment marks a major change in the field of Allergy and Immunology and has had a major impact in the lives of our food-allergic patients and their families.

Once confirmed that food OIT is indicated, the culprit food allergen is initially administered slowly in very small dosages and gradually increased weekly over the course of several months.

The initial build up day and all advancing doses each week are conducted in our office under close supervision by one of our physicians and experienced nurses to monitor and treat for any adverse reactions. The tolerated dose each week is then taken daily at home until seen the following visit at which time up-dosing occurs if no adverse effects were noted.

Robust clinical data has demonstrated that OIT is very safe and is effective in 80-85% of patients.

Using Gut Bacteria to Fight Allergies

New research published in Nature Medicine shows the role of gut bacteria, specifically the species Anaerostipes caccae, in allergies. A team of researchers led by an immunologist at the University of Chicago, Cathryn Nagler, have acquired gut microbes from infants with and without cow’s milk allergy. The researchers then transplanted the gut microbes into mice through fecal samples. The results found that the mice that received gut bacteria from infants with no cow’s milk allergy displayed no allergic reaction to the milk. On the other hand, the mice that received gut bacteria from infants with cow’s milk allergy displayed symptoms of anaphylaxis when exposed to cow’s milk. 

Through the study, the researchers found that infants have gut bacteria that protects them from developing food allergies. An individual will be more susceptible to food allergies if the microbiomes in their gut are disordered. The study suggests that gut bacteria should be replenished in order to treat these types of allergies. This could be a new way to use bacteria for the body’s benefits and to help alter the structure of the immune system when it comes to foreign substances. With gut bacteria theory, people are hopeful that it can target any food allergen, which means it can possibly treat all types of food allergies.  

This gut microbiome research is a new milestone in the medical field, and hopefully with further research additional food allergy treatments will be available in the near future. 

Schedule an Appointment with Bernstein Allergy

Allergies can make a person’s daily life difficult and uncomfortable. Constantly worrying about food allergies can be a major inconvenience, but the professional allergists at Bernstein Allergy are here to help!

Call (513)-931-0775 to speak with an allergy specialist in Cincinnati, OH.


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