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Can Probiotics Help Food Allergies & Sensitivities?

Written by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Last updated:
Jonathan Ritter
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology), Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Last updated:

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Certain probiotics may help the human body distinguish between safe and dangerous compounds and avoid allergic reactions to otherwise harmless foods. Read on to see the results of many promising clinical studies.

Probiotics & Food Tolerance

Allergic reactions result when the immune system overreacts to an otherwise harmless food or compound like milk, eggs, or peanuts. In many promising clinical trials, certain probiotic supplements reduced sensitization, prevented reactions, and even promoted tolerance of these allergens, especially in children.

In this post, we’ll discuss the most promising avenues of research into probiotics and allergies. Remember that probiotics may not be right for everyone; talk to your doctor before starting a new probiotic supplement.

Insufficient Evidence For

The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of probiotics for any of the below-listed uses. Remember to speak with a doctor before taking probiotic supplements, and never use it in place of something your doctor recommends or prescribes.

1) Food Allergies

L. rhamnosus accelerated oral tolerance acquisition in cow’s milk allergic infants [1, 2].

L. rhamnosus decreased the allergic response to peanuts in children [3].

In one study of milk-hypersensitive adults, L. rhamnosus reduced the immunoinflammatory response [2].

L. plantarum reduced the allergenicity of soy flour [4].

S. salivarius, L. paracasei, B. animalis and B. bifidum prevented atopic sensitization to common food allergens. The authors of this study believe that this probiotic blend could thereby reduce the incidence of atopic eczema in early childhood [5].

L. delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus degraded the allergenic whey protein β-lactoglobulin and inhibited IgE binding in allergic patients [6].

L. helveticus alone or in combination with S. thermophiles effectively reduced the antigenicity of α-lactalbumin and β-lactoglobulin, the major allergens in cow’s milk [7].

L. helveticus can significantly degrade the major allergens in propolis, including esters of caffeic acid [8].

L. fermentum degraded αS1-casein and lowered the recognition and the binding of this casein to IgE from the blood of patients with cow’s milk allergy [9].

B. breve improved symptoms of allergic hypersensitivity to cow’s milk in infants [10].

Lactobacillus probiotics appear to promote oral tolerance to allergenic foods in humans. Some species may also degrade common allergens.

2) Lactose Intolerance

L. delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus improved lactose digestion in the gastrointestinal tract and reduced symptoms of lactose intolerance [11].

L. acidophilus may improve lactose digestion and tolerance [12, 13].

3) Oxalate

L. gasseri degraded oxalate in laboratory experiments; according to some researchers, it may therefore be beneficial in managing oxalate kidney stone disease [14].

A mixture of L. casei and B. breve lowered urinary oxalate excretion through a mechanism that may be dependent on dietary oxalate intake [15].

B. animalis ssp. lactis possesses the oxc gene, encoding oxalyl-coenzyme A (CoA) decarboxylase, a key enzyme in oxalate degradation [16]. B. animalis ssp. lactis significantly decreased urinary oxalate excretion in mice with hyperoxaluria, possibly by degrading dietary oxalate and thus limiting its absorption across the intestine [17].

4) MSG

Capsules containing L. brevis reduced monosodium glutamate (MSG) levels and MSG symptom complex in humans [18].

L. brevis inhibited the absorption of MSG from the intestine into the blood in mice [19].

Animal & Cell Research (Lacking Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of probiotics for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

5) Histamine Intolerance

L. plantarum is able to degrade biogenic amines [20]; thus, some researchers believe it could help with histamine intolerance.

L. casei degrades biogenic amines (BAs) and reduces histamine and tyramine accumulation in cheese [21].

Note that some probiotics may produce or increase biogenic amines (see Safety section).

Takeaway

When patients were given probiotics in multiple clinical trials (most commonly Lactobacillus), they were more likely to develop oral tolerance to allergens; that is, they were less likely to have allergic reactions. Certain probiotic bacteria may also degrade the allergenic compounds in common foods.

Among the common allergens and intolerance triggers tested against probiotics are histamine, oxalates, lactose, and MSG. Not everyone will respond to probiotics in the same way; talk to your doctor before starting a new probiotic.

Further Reading

We’ve compiled deep dives into each potential benefit of probiotics. Check them out here:

About the Author

Biljana Novkovic

Biljana Novkovic

PhD
Biljana received her PhD from Hokkaido University.
Before joining SelfHacked, she was a research scientist with extensive field and laboratory experience. She spent 4 years reviewing the scientific literature on supplements, lab tests and other areas of health sciences. She is passionate about releasing the most accurate science and health information available on topics, and she's meticulous when writing and reviewing articles to make sure the science is sound. She believes that SelfHacked has the best science that is also layperson-friendly on the web.

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