With spring soon approaching, many Floridians will meet the season their allergies dread the most. But University of Florida researchers believe they have a solution for those with mild allergy symptoms – probiotics.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that promote health, according to the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics.
A UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study showed that taking a specific probiotic combination reduced the symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis, or hay fever.
For the first time, researchers were able to see a clinical benefits that could someday help ease the effects of seasonal allergies, said Bobbi Langkamp-Henken, a UF/IFAS professor of food science and human nutrition and a senior author of the study.
“The probiotics will not prevent or cure allergies,” said Langkamp-Henken. “But they may make them more manageable.”
The study, which ran for eight weeks during the spring of 2015, involved 173 healthy adults who suffered from mild seasonal allergies.
The group that received the probiotic combination of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria in the form of a capsule, which is sold as Kyo-Dophilus in stores, reported an improved allergy-related quality of life.
According to Jennifer Dennis, a doctoral student and the study’s first author, the study’s results do come with a caveat.
“I would not expect this intervention to work for every person in the world,” Dennis said. “So we can’t really say anything about people who are experiencing more severe allergies.”
However, she wouldn’t hesitate to have healthy adults to give the probiotics a try.
The study evolved from the hygiene hypothesis, an idea that is not yet scientifically proven, stating that developed countries, which tend to be more sterile, have higher incidence rates of allergies and asthma compared to developing countries.
“We think it’s because [of] a lack of exposure to certain bacteria when their immune system is developing,” Dennis said. “We wanted to know if there is a way probiotics are interacting with the immune system to result in certain mechanisms that affect allergies.”
Helpful bacteria can be found in a variety of products, such as yogurt, kombucha and fermented cabbage, but each may have different or no effects on allergy symptoms.
Since the study used a combination of various probiotics, Langkamp-Henken explained that they aren’t sure if it is just one or all of the components that are needed to produce benefits.
“We are actually planning on looking into that with an upcoming study this fall,” she said.
Daphne Chester, a physician assistant at Gainesville Medical Centers, which focuses on treatment of allergies, said the findings of the study are worth noting.
“Because seasons are often overlapping, most sufferers don’t find significant, lasting relief, which is probably one reason that would prompt such a study,” Chester said.