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Friday, August 13, 2010

Probiotics and Hayfever

If you are one of the more than 35.9 million hay fever (allergic rhinitis) sufferers in the United States, you know that the runny nose, sneezing, congestion and sinus pressure do not end with winter (1). These symptoms may be just beginning in the spring and summer months. Fortunately, a variety of natural products help deal with allergic reactions to a variety of airborne substances. In addition to the great seasonal allergy remedies available, a new pilot study might have you reaching for one of your favorite winter products; probiotics.

During a hay fever attack, the immune system reacts upon exposure to certain airborne substances that it thinks are harmful. Pollens, fungal spores, dust mites and dander are all common culprits. In the body's initial exposure to these substances, the immune system produces specific antibodies to fight them. In subsequent exposures, these antibodies will recognize the substances and signal immune cells to release histamine and other chemicals that help deal with the symptoms associated with hay fever.

For the first time ever, scientists from the Institute of Food Research reported that a specific strain of probiotic may help reduce hay fever symptoms in humans (2). In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 10 hay fever sufferers were given a milk drink with added Lactobacillus casei (L. casei); while 10 others were given a milk drink without the added probiotic as a placebo for a five-month period. The researchers collected blood samples before, at the peak, and at the end of grass pollen season to determine levels of the plasma antibodies and cytokines specific to grass pollens.

Levels of both were significantly decreased for the group that took the probiotic milk drink compared to those who did not. These results suggest that supplementation of L. casei and possibly other probiotic strains may reduce the symptoms of hay fever. Read the entire article.

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