Gut Health and Allergies
What causes allergies? That’s been a debate for years. We know its an autoimmune reaction to what should be a harmless substance – allergic reactions can be to anything – foods, environmental substances like pollen, animals, birds and chemicals. In short, people can be allergic to anything.
Research has suggested a link between allergies and our modern cleaning methods and eating habits; those consuming unpasteurized products appear to have fewer allergies, although this does carry a considerable risk of consuming dangerous bacteria so food regulations in the UK limit it’s sale (see Here for FSA guidelines). However, this finding did seem to generate an interest in the role of gut bacteria and allergic reactions. There is increasing evidence to suggest a link between lack of biodiversity in the gut, and health issues, including allergies. This is a good article in The Scientist.Nothing is definitive yet, but just as doctors now recommend probiotics to those taking antibiotics, it’s fair to say that the biodiversity of our gut is now a hot topic. Biodiversity of gut flora (or lack of) is being linked to a variety of health conditions so it makes sense to do everything we can to help our gut bacteria flourish.
I have no idea if taking probiotics will help me or Molly, but I’m willing to try as a lifetime of severe allergic reactions is something I’d like my daughter to avoid. I’ve been on a lot of antibiotics over the years’ for chest infections due to asthma, and endless rounds of prednisone to stop swelling limbs and body covering rashes. So maybe this comes under the heading of ‘self help’, something I can do that can only help my body, even if it’s too late for me to help my allergies. I’m also hoping that improving our gut health will cut down on the number and severity of the colds we get. I don’t know if other allergic people find that they catch everything going but we certainly do! Its unheard of in our house for a cold to go after 3 days, and I’m tired of spending a fortune on First Defence and the like.
So…the information I’ve read suggests that we should adjust our diet to include:
- A wider variety of fruit and vegetable. We seem to stick to courgette, mushrooms, broccoli and beans. Time to include veg with more colour, and eat a wider variety of vegetables and salad.
- Fermented foods. This is a tricky one, anything made with vinegar isn’t what we’re after apparently. I’m not going to start fermenting cabbage (I don’t care how easy blogs say it is), I just can’t. So instead I’m going for fermented drinks. We can’t go for the dairy ones as we’re allergic, so instead we’re trying Kombucha.
You can find fermented drinks in most supermarkets, just experiment and find one you like.
- Eating more fibre, western diets are rather low in fibre so more brown rice, lentils, chickpeas, seeds (I’m avoiding nuts due to allergies) and quinoa. It’s actually quite hard to make this adjustment as we’re so use to potatoes and white rice!
- Daily probiotic to help our digestion. We’re taking this Optibac, but again health food stores and supermarkets have lots to choose from. Don’t forget that if you are looking for a probiotic for your child you need one specifically formulated for children.
- Live yoghurt – coconut based. We love Waitrose’s new line.
- Time for us to learn how to make sourdough bread! I’ll start experimenting and get back on that one!
- One super easy one is Miso Soup (as long as you aren’t allergic to soya of course). Comes in sachets, and as quick to make as a cup of tea.
- Turmeric seems to be a supplement that’s getting a lot of attention for its anti inflammatory properties. There is talk of it helping allergies and asthma because it reduces inflammation. I’m not so sure about the news stories talking about Turmeric as a treatment for cancer, but if it helps with mucus production and therefore is beneficial for colds and asthma I’m willing to give it a try!. We’re going to start taking Tumeric, see if it helps with hay fever and asthma. If you want to read more here’s a link to an interesting read about Turmeric.
I think that’s enough for us to be getting on with, hopefully it will help our gut health, and maybe give our immune system a boost. Heaven knows we get endless colds in our house so we’ll see if this winter is better. I’ve read that a few weeks of probiotics can help gut bacteria after antibiotics, but not seen anything about allergies. I suspect for allergies the answer is going to be more complicated, but maybe each steps we takes helps.