Category Archives: allergy

Natural Approaches to Hay Fever

While most of us look forward to the longer, brighter days of summer, this season can spell misery for Britain’s twelve million hay fever sufferers. This year is a particular worry, as pollen counts are predicted to be at an all time high. According to Professor Roy Kennedy of the National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit, as a result of a cold spring, the pollen burst will now happen in a condensed burst, producing the highest pollen levels for decades.

Hay fever symptoms, such as a runny nose and red, itchy eyes, are a result of an allergic reaction to pollen causing histamine release. This is why antihistamines are the most common medication for the condition. For those who would like to try a natural approach, dietary changes and nutritional supplements can also alter levels of histamine in the body, helping to reduce symptoms and reduce the need for over the counter drugs.

One example of a natural antihistamine is Vitamin C (1), which has been used both nasally and orally to treat nasal congestion. Studies showing the vitamin’s antihistamine properties have used doses up to 7g daily, although I recommend staying within the safe upper limit by taking up to 1500mg supplemental Vitamin C daily, together with Vitamin C rich foods such as oranges, kiwis, broccoli, tomato juice and peppers.

Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme derived from pineapple stem. It has anti-inflammatory benefits and also has mucolytic properties (2), meaning that it helps to thin mucous. Bromelain blocks the action of fibrin and kinins, which cause nasal swelling and irritation.

Another natural agent which has been shown to benefit to hay fever sufferers is quercetin (3-5). Quercetin is a flavonoid naturally present in foods such as onions, apples and kale. It works by reducing the release of histamine from immune system cells known as mast cells.

For hayfever sufferers, it may be particularly beneficial to use both quercetin and bromelain together. I normally prefer to supplement them in a combined formula, together with Vitamin C. Formulas such as Biocare’s Quercetin Plus can be helpful in this regard. As both quercetin and bromelain thin the blood, they not be used by those on anti-coagulants such as warfarin.

The link between food intolerance and hay fever is unproven. As a nutritional therapist I do however sometimes advise clients to avoid the most common dietary irritants, such as dairy, wheat and alcohol for a period, as many people find that their symptoms abate after eliminating these foods. Any food that irritates the digestive tract can result in increased mucous formation. It may also be that food intolerance causes local inflammatory reactions, making the tissues around the eyes and nose more sensitive to pollen.

Other nutritional strategies include boosting your body’s levels of calcium, magnesium, methionine and flavonoids in order to discourage the production of histamine. Foods such as nuts, sunflower seeds, onions, cabbage, blackberries and apples are recommended in this respect. Anti-inflammatory foods such as oily fish, flaxseed oil, milled flaxseed or a regular fish oil supplement, may also be of benefit.

For anyone wanting to avoid troublesome hay fever symptoms, the most important fact to remember is that anti-histamine measures need to be applied regularly and consistently in order to be effective. For this reason, following a well-planned anti-inflammatory diet alongside regular natural anti-histamines such as Vitamin C, quercetin and bromelain may prove the best strategy for beating hay fever naturally.

References

  1. Hagel AF (2013) Intravenous infusion of ascorbic acid decreases serum histamine concentrations in patients with allergic and non-allergic diseases. Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol May 11. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Suzuki K, Niho T, Yamada H, et al. Experimental study of the effects of bromelain. Nippon Yakurigaku Zasshi 1983;81:211-216.
  3. Hirano T et al. (2009). “Preventative effect of a flavonoid, enzymatically modified isoquercitrin on ocular symptoms of Japanese cedar pollinosis”. Allergology international : official journal of the Japanese Society of Allergology 58 (3): 373–82.
  4. Kawai M et al. (2009). “Effect of enzymatically modified isoquercitrin, a flavonoid, on symptoms of Japanese cedar pollinosis: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial”. International archives of allergy and immunology 149 (4): 359–68.
  5. Mainardi, T et al (2009). “Complementary and alternative medicine: herbs, phytochemicals and vitamins and their immunologic effects”. The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology 123 (2): 283–94
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Are you allergic to winter?

The cold winter months can actually increase allergic symptoms in some people, spelling months of misery. Summer allergies are often spotted and tackled early by sufferers. Winter allergies however are less well-known, and are often mistaken for colds or flu, meaning that they are not dealt with effectively.

For those who suffer during the colder months, it is important to know the difference between an allergy and a cold, to understand the most common triggers and to take action to eliminate the troublesome symptoms.

Spot the difference! Is it an allergy or a cold?

Sneezing
Is it just a common cold or is it an allergy?

Many people believe that they are suffering with a common cold when in fact they are experiencing allergy symptoms. After all, coughing, sneezing and a runny nose can be symptoms of either ailment. However, a cold should not last more than 10 days. If your symptoms persist over weeks or months, then it is far more likely that you are suffering with an allergy. Other allergy symptoms include itchy eyes or nose, watery eyes and dark circles under the eyes.

Winter allergy triggers

Spending more time indoors, with the heating on full blast, can mean weeks of misery for allergy sufferers. Common allergy triggers during this time can be:

  • Mould. Moist conditions caused by indoor heating can lead to the growth of mould. Bathrooms and kitchens are particularly susceptible to this problem. Steamy showers in small bathrooms can also be a culprit. If you notice condensation on your windows during the cold weather, then look out for mould.
  • Dust mites. Ducted heating indoors encourages dust to circulate throughout the house. Extra bedding and long-stored winter clothing can also be a breeding ground for troublesome dust mites.
  • Animals. During the winter time, it is more likely that both you and your pet will spend more time indoors. Contrary to popular belief, allergies to pet fur are uncommon. It is more likely that you are allergic to certain proteins present in pet dander and saliva.

Winter Allergy Action Plan

There are a number of natural measures that may help to fight off persistent allergy symptoms at this time of year.

  • Vacuum and dust more often during the winter months.
  • Wash pillows and sheets in hot water every week.
  • Use allergy-proof covers on mattresses, pillows and duvets.
  • Natural nasal sprays such as those containing salt can lessen inflammation and help keep the nasal passages clear.
  • Watch out for mould, especially in moist areas such as the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Clean the filters in your air-conditioning and heater units.
  • Try an air filter to reduce allergens in your home.
  • Don’t assume sniffles are the result of cold viruses, especially if your symptoms last more than a couple of weeks. Check with your GP if you are unsure.
  • Anti-inflammatory nutrients and natural anti-histamines such as Vitamin C and omega-3 fish oils may be helpful. For allergic symptoms, I often recommend a combination of potent anti-inflammatory nutrients quercetin and bromelain. You should always check with your GP before taking any new supplements, especially if you are already taking prescribed medications.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.

References

Image courtesy of “evah” (Sebastian Smit).

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Probiotics – What are they and do you need them?

Probiotics, or ‘friendly bacteria’, are live microorganisms, which when consumed in adequate amounts, are thought to confer health benefits on the human body. Taking a daily probiotic supplement could not only help with your digestion, but could also spark off other feel-good factors, such as good skin health, immunity and wellbeing.

Digestion
Probiotics are key to the digestive system. They help the body to produce digestive enzymes (such as lactase) which breakdown certain food substances (in this case, lactose, found in dairy products.) This is why topping up your levels of probiotics on a daily basis can help with food intolerances.

Probiotics support the digestive system, and various research has shown that these microorganisms can help to encourage bowel regularity, and discourage digestive disorders or conditions such as diarrhoea (1,2), bloating (3) , or constipation(4,5).

High Quality Probiotic
A High Quality Probiotic such as OptiBac For Daily Wellbeing EXTRA Strength can help line the gut wall with good bacteria to fend off pathogens.

Immunity
Probiotics are thought to support the immune system thanks to the ‘barrier effect’. A high quality probiotic is tested for its ability to bind to cells on the gut wall lining. When you supplement with plenty of probiotics they begin to coat your gut wall, taking up space on this lining. This means that when pathogens (harmful microorganisms) enter the body, they reach the gut and have fewer points on the gut wall upon which they can adhere. It’s effectively a competition for space, between the good guys and the bad! The more good guys (probiotics) you have lining your gut wall, the fewer bad guys (pathogens) you should have in turn. This is known as the barrier effect; taking a daily probiotic can support this process.

Probiotics also improve the absorption of vitamins and minerals into the bloodstream. After all there’s no use taking lots of vitamins if your body is not absorbing them. This improved vitamin uptake provides essential support for the immune system, and what’s more, means that a probiotic nicely complements any other daily supplements you may take.

Skin health
Probiotics are also thought to help support healthy skin, as often acne or spots are caused by bad bacteria, or toxins in the body. Supporting your gut with friendly bacteria means that the body will digest foods more efficiently (producing fewer toxins in the first place) and what’s more, probiotics help to displace toxins or bad bacteria in the gut (through various mechanisms, including the barrier effect mentioned above.) Probiotics have even been shown to help with atopic allergies such as eczema (6). Supporting your gut health from the inside should hopefully see you benefiting on the outside too.

Frequency of Use
Some specific probiotics can be effectively taken as a ‘one-off’ treatment, for example Saccharomyces boulardii to support gut health in those suffering from diarrhoea. However if you’re taking probiotics for general support to your digestion, immunity, energy & skin, best to take them every day for at least a few months; giving your gut time to top up its friendly bacteria levels. Many people safely and happily take probiotics on an ongoing basis for years.

 

References:

1. McFarland, L.V. & Bernasconi, P. (1993) Saccharomyces boulardii: A Review of an Innovative Biotherapeutic Agent. Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease; Vol. 6 pp. 157-171.
2. Hochter, W. et al (1990) Saccharomyces boulardii in acute adult diarrhea. Efficacy and tolerance of treatment. Munchener Medizinische Wochenschrift; Vol. 132 (12) pp. 188-192
3. Paineau, D. (2007) Regular consumption of short-chain fructo-oligosachharides improves digestive comfort with minor functional bowel disorders. Br. J. Nutr. Aug 13:1-8 [Epub ahead of print]
4. Matsumoto, M. et al. (2001) Effect of Yoghurt with Bifidobacterium lactis Bb-12® in Improving Fecal Microflora and Defecation of Healthy Volunteers. Journal of Intestinal Microbiology; 14(2): pp. 97-102
5. Pitkala, K.H et al. (2007) Fermented cereal with specific bifidobacteria normalizes bowel movements in elderly nursing home residents. A randomized, controlled trial. Journal of Nutritional Health and Aging; 11(4): pp.305-311.
6. Isolauri, E., et al., Probiotics in the management of atopic eczema. Clin Exp Allergy, 2000. 30(11): p. 1604-10.

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Omega-3 supplements in early infancy may protect against allergies

A recent Australian study provides the first human data showing the benefits of very early postnatal fish oil supplementation in children (1).

The randomised controlled trial, led by Susan Prescott, investigated the effects of fish oil supplements on 420 infants from birth to six months of age. It found that supplementation significantly lowered the allergic response in infants.

Fish Oil for Infants
Products like Igennus Vegepa can be taken by the mother and provided to their infant via breast milk.

Allergies in children are on the rise. In 2004, 39 percent of children were diagnosed with one or more of the allergic conditions asthma, eczema or hayfever. Nobody really knows why allergies are on the increase although factors such as pollution and higher levels of environmental toxins may be partly to blame. Diet may also play a role. Essential fatty acids are important regulators of inflammation and immune response, and so imbalances of these types of fat in the western diet may be partly responsible.

The effects of fish oil supplements during the third trimester of pregnancy have been studied, and benefits include reduced risk of asthma in children. A more recent study has now investigated the effects of fish oil on children’s immune systems during the first 6 months after birth.

In this new study, published in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy, each infant was given either a fish oil supplement providing 280 mg of DHA and 100 mg of EPA, or a placebo supplement each day. Signs of allergic response in each infant were then measured at both 6 and 12 months of age.

Blood tests taken at six months of age confirmed that the fish oil group of children had significantly higher levels of EPA and DHA that the control group. Levels of arachidonic acid, an inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid, were also lower in the fish oil group.

The infants who had received the fish oil had significantly lower allergic responses to both dust mites and milk protein. Substances such as interleukin-13, a type of protein involved in allergic responses, were much lower in the fish oil group. Significantly fewer infants in the fish oil group were diagnosed with eczema at 12 months old.

Harry Rice, PhD, Vice President of scientific and regulatory affairs for GOED, the omega-3 trade association, felt positive about the findings. “The present results demonstrating the immunomodulatory properties of EPA and DHA translating into allergy protection suggest that the simple step of supplementation with EPA and DHA in infancy may result in increased quality of life, not to mention decreased health costs, for those afflicted with allergic conditions.”

While there are several pleasant-tasting fish oil supplements formulated for children, few are explicitly recommended for young infants. In fact, the researchers noted that maternal supplementation may be a more efficient way of supplementing breastfed infants who might sometimes reject the capsules through spitting or vomiting. Until further studies have been carried out, the long-term impact of this type of supplementation is not certain. In the meantime, breastfeeding mothers may want to try a good quality fish oil supplement as a nutritional safeguard for their child’s immune health.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References
1. D’Vaz N, Meldrum SJ, Dunstan JA, Lee-Pullen TF, Metcalfe J, Holt BJ, Serralha M, Tulic MK, Mori TA, Prescott SL (2012) Fish oil supplementation in early infancy modulates developing infant immune responses. Clin & Exp Allergy 42:8 pp1206-1216

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Treating and Managing Hay Fever With Natural Products

Seasonal allergies affect millions of people in the UK each year with aggravating symptoms such as sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, running nose and itchy skin. These hay fever symptoms are the result of the immune system’s reaction to harmless pollen particles in the same way it would respond to harmful antigens. In this immune response, immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE) detect the pollen ‘antigens’ and activate mast cells and T helper cells (specifically type 2 or Th2 cells). The increase of Th2 cells and the mast cell histamine release in the mucosa and peripheral blood result in inflammation, hay fever symptoms and atopic conditions.

UnBEElievable Bee Products
UnBEElievable Bee Products including MAX Strength and DAILY Defence contain many of the ingredients that helps to support you in the Hay Fever season

Conventionally, hay fever is managed by using anti­-histamine drugs to reduce symptoms. However, a more holistic and curative approach to treating hay fever is to modulate the immune system, reduce the histamine response and to focus on reducing inflammation. Certain nutrients and natural remedies can be helpful in achieving these therapeutic goals and in creating a long term, effective treatment for hay fever and other atopic conditions.

Elderberry has been used medicinally for centuries in the UK and in Europe. Elderberry is widely known for its effective use in treating viral infections. Elderberry is also rich in Vitamin C and the bioflavonoid quercetin, both of which are powerful antioxidant and anti-histamine nutrients. These actions can help to reduce mast cell histamine response and reduce mucosa inflammation. Recent clinical studies have found elderberry effective at treating allergic sinusitis and rhinitis.

Reishi mushroom has been used historically as an immune tonic in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Scientific researchers in the western world are now beginning to understand the active constituents that are responsible for the mushroom’s immune supporting actions. Reishi contains the bioflavonoid triterpene which inhibits histamine release. It also contains oleic acid and cyclooctasulphur compound which have antihistamine actions. In addition to these anti-­-allergic actions, reishi contains antioxidant and anti-­inflammatory phytonutrients which may be helpful in reducing hay fever symptoms.

Astaxanthin is a carotenoid found naturally in algae. Studies have shown that astaxanthin is effective in modulating the immune system, specifically siting its role in balancing the Th1 and Th2 cells. By rebalancing these T helper cells, astaxanthin aids in reducing the hypersensitivity to pollen allergens. Astaxanthin is also a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient. These actions may help to reduce the symptoms related to the inflammation of the mucosa.

Bee propolis contains a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. It also has significant immunomodulating and anti-­inflammatory actions. Propolis is one of nature’s most potent anti-­oxidant substances, exceeding Vitamin E in anti-­oxidant actions. Propolis also has been found to effectively modulate the immune system without over stimulating it. The combination of these actions may be helpful in creating a long term treatment for hay fever.

Written by Erin McCann NT mBANT from UnBEElieveable Health and Being-Balanced

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Tribest blenders, juicers, sprouters and superb summer smoothies…

If you’ve not had the chance to see them already, this blog is all about our fantastic new range of juicers, blenders and kitchen appliances from Tribest and some delicious and nutritious healthy smoothie recipes that you can try making at home.

Tribest
See our new range of Tribest kitchen appliances - making healthy living easy

Our fantastic new range of kitchen appliances from Tribest includes juicers, blenders, sprouters, soy milk makers, yoghurt makers and food dehydrators, in fact everything you could possibly need to fit your kitchen out with the perfect tools to make healthy nutritious food.

Tribest Juicers are extremely high quality and perfect for fruits, vegetables and the hardest root foods you could imagine.  Available in a range of sizes and styles Tribest juicers can start you on your way to better health with minimal time and effort.

Grow your own fresh, nutritious and tender sprouts to add to your diet in the comfort of your own kitchen with the Freshlife sprouter or if you are intolerant to lactose, make your own delicious, pure soy milk at home with the SoyaBella, saving you time and money and giving you the chance to add tasty ingredients to your soy milk such as strawberries or bananas.

Nutritionists swear by the benefits of healthy low fat and highly nutritious dried foods such as apples or bananas, now you can dry your own at home with the Tribest Sedona food dehydrator.  Raw fruit and nuts get boring,  so make your own healthy dried fruits and vegetables for delicious healthy snacks.  Tribest blenders are perfect for healthy smoothie making.  Try some of our recipes below for a super nutritious breakfast smoothie or as a snack throughout the day packed full of nutritious goodness.

Breakfast Smoothie

A simple recipe that provides you with a quick, delicious and healthy way to start your day.  Add or substitute with your favourite fruit or juice.

Super Green Smoothie
Try a healthy breakfast smoothie to give your body the kick start it needs (1)

Supergreen Smoothie

  • 600ml mineral water (still)
  • ½ chopped cucumber (skin & pips included)
  • ¼ peeled avocado
  • 1 chopped celery stick
  • Juice of ½ lemon or lime
  • ¼ teaspoon unrefined salt
  • Small double handful (60-80mg) of mixed green leaves from the following (they can be combined): spinach, watercress, rocket, savoy cabbage, chard, lettuce, chicory, kale, bok choy, sprigs of mint, parsley, coriander, basil etc
  • Sun Chlorella® ‘A’ tablets: initially starting off with 5 tablets for the first three days, moving up to 10 for the next 3 days and then 15 tablets herein after.

Plus (optionally)

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1-2 slices (5-10mg) of fresh ginger
  • 1 small chopped spring onion
  • ½ apple or ½ pear or 100g of mango or papaya, to sweeten slightly
Don’t forget to share your favourite smoothie recipes by adding a comment below…

References

(1)  Image courtesy of gameanna.


Written by Mike Pye
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bodykind do some detective work on food intolerance

Do you have a health issue getting you down that Doctor’s just can’t seem to help with?  Do you not feel quite as well as you should?  According to Allergy UK as many as 45% of people in the UK suffer from a food intolerance (1), many of which lead to varying symptoms that while not life threatening, can make all aspects of life uncomfortable, painful or just down right miserable. Symptoms of food intolerance are varied and can have a serious effect on the quality of your day to day life.  From abdominal pains to eczema, fatigue and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, food intolerance can lead many to unhappiness.  But it is a common area that can be difficult to get help for from many in the medical profession.(2)

Do you have a food intolerance?
According to Allergy UK as many as 45% of people in the UK suffer from a food intolerance

There is a stark difference between food allergy, and food intolerance. Food allergy sparks a rapid response in the body’s immune system to a particular food.  The immune system mistakes a food for an ‘invader’ which often results in a rapid allergic reaction, commonly associated with nut and seafood allergies.(3) Food intolerance on the other hand can lead to many less serious reactions but uncomfortable symptoms that manifest themselves through skin conditions, digestive problems, aches and pains and much more.(4)

There are numerous foods that can spark intolerances including dairy, meat, fruit, fish, gluten, wheat and even vegetables.  But how can you find out just what it is that’s upsetting you.  You could try eliminating certain foods from your diet to see if this has a positive effect on your symptoms but this can be a long drawn out process (and must be done under the supervision of a qualified Nutritionist). There are a number of products on the market today however that offer home tests for a variety of different food intolerances and the Food Detective is one of the most popular.

Food Detective
Food Detective is the world's first self test for food intolerance

Simple, safe, reliable and fast the Food Detective is the world’s first self test for food intolerance.  No more waiting days for results, the Food Detective tests your reaction to 59 common foods through a finger prick blood sample and gives you results in about 40 minutes. The test identifies foods causing IgG antibody production which may be involved in various conditions such as IBS, eczema, and arthritis. The test gives you the ability to easily identify the type of foods that may be affecting your health and eliminate them from your diet giving you the peace of mind to eat the right things and improving your lifestyle.

It is important to note however that changes to diet should only be made after consultation with a qualified nutritionist.  Symptoms of intolerances and allergy can be eased with nutritional and dietary help.  “Some general advice would be to boost the immune system via a diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits which provide vitamins and bioflavonoids.  In addition to this omega 3 fatty acids from oily fish e.g. salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines (at least two portions per week) are really helpful to the immune system and also to reduce inflammation in the body.”(5)

 

Written by Mike Pye

1.  http://www.allergyuk.org/

2.  http://www.foodintoleranceawareness.org/isitfi.htm

3.  http://www.foodintoleranceawareness.org/isitfi.htm

4. http://www.foodintoleranceawareness.org/symptoms.htm

5.  Ani Kowal, Food Allergy and Intolerance Week, bodykind Blog, January 27th 2010.

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Low levels of vitamin D linked to allergies in children

Previous research has shown a possible link between low vitamin D levels and allergy and now a new study (1) involving over 3,000 children has found that low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased likelihood that children will develop allergies. 

The researchers (1) looked at the blood serum vitamin D levels of over 3,000 children and 3,400 adults who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in the United States.  Blood tests were also used to assess the sensitivity to 17 different allergens – allergic response was tested by measuring levels of a specific protein, called Immunoglobulin E (IgE), which is made when the immune system responds to allergens.  A vitamin D level of less than 15ng/mL was classed as vitamin D deficient and a level of 15-29 ng/mL was insufficient.  Data was adjusted for known potential confounders such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, obesity, low socioeconomic status, frequency of milk intake, daily hours spent watching television, playing videogames, or using a computer and vitamin D supplement use.

Results (1) showed that there was no association observed between vitamin D levels and allergies in adults.   However in children and adolescents, low vitamin D levels correlated with sensitivity to 11 of the 17 allergens tested, including both environmental allergens such as ragweed, oak, dog, cockroach and food allergens such as peanuts.  Children who had vitamin D deficiency were 2.4 times as likely to have a peanut allergy than were children with sufficient levels of vitamin D (more than 30 ng of vitamin D per mL of blood) (2).

The authors conclude that (1) “Vitamin D deficiency is associated with higher levels of IgE sensitization in children and adolescents. Further research is needed to confirm these findings”.  More research is needed since the current study only shows that there is an association between low vitamin D levels and allergy in children, it does not prove that low vitamin D levels cause allergy. 

There has been much research into vitamin D and health recently so ensuring good blood levels is probably a good idea.  A test can be done by your medical doctor to see what levels you and/or your children have and it is always best to check with your medical doctor prior to starting any supplement regimen.  The main author of the study notes that “”The latest dietary recommendations calling for children to take in 600 IU of vitamin D daily should keep them from becoming vitamin-D deficient,” (2)

 

(1) Sharief S et al.  2011. Vitamin D levels and food and environmental allergies in the United States: Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2011.01.017

(2) Press release.  Albert Einstein College of Medicine (2011, February 24). Low vitamin D levels linked to allergies in kids. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 25, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2011/02/110224103244.htm

Written by Ani Richardson

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Probiotics in pregnancy may reduce the risk of eczema in children

Previous evidence has suggested that probiotics (‘friendly’ gut bacteria) given to pregnant women at risk of having children with atopic dermatitis (a type of eczema), and then their infants, seems to reduce the incidence of eczema in the children.  A recently published study in the British Journal of Dermatology (1) took place to examine whether probiotic supplements given to non-select pregnant women (not just those at risk of having a child with eczema) could prevent eczema in the child’s first two years. 

 

In the study (1) women received a probiotic milk or placebo (milk which did not contain probiotics) from 36 weeks of pregnancy to three months postnatally during breastfeeding (all the mothers breastfed their children). The probiotic milk contained the probiotic strains Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Lactobacillus acidophilus La-5 and Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis Bb-12. Children with an itchy rash for more than four weeks were assessed for eczema.  After two years of age, all the children were assessed for various conditions such as atopic dermatitis, asthma and allergic rhinoconjunctivitis.  The results showed that children of the women who drank the probiotic milk during and after their pregnancy had a 40% reduced incidence of eczema.

The results showed that probiotic bacteria reduced the incidence of eczema in children up to age two years by 40 percent. And the kids in ‘probiotics group’ who did have eczema, had less severe cases,” explains Christian Kvikne Dotterud, a student in the Medical Student Research Programme at the Department of Community Medicine at NTNU (2).

The study was conducted by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norwegian University of Science and Technology,  it is part of a larger research project at the university called the Prevention of Allergy Among Children in Trondheim, or PACT, an ongoing population-based intervention study in Norway focused on childhood allergy (2).

One of the study researchers said (2)Our study is the first to show that certain probiotic bacteria given to the mother during pregnancy and breast-feeding prevents eczema,”. Previous studies have shown that probiotics taken by pregnant mothers and then by their children may prevent eczema, but this is the first study to show a preventative effect when the mother alone consumed the probiotics.  It is thought that the probiotic bacteria, taken by the mothers, affects the composition of breast milk in a positive way.

The researchers of this study used a variety of strains of probiotics.  In the press release they say “There is reason to believe that it is beneficial for your health to consume a variety of bacterial strains with documented efficacy, rather than unilateral influence of only one bacterial strain”.  One of the strains of bacteria used in the probiotic milk drink was  LGG ®, (Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG)  which is currently the probiotic bacteria that are most extensively studied and researched in terms of human health in the world.  It has been shown that LGG ® contributes to good gut function and a stronger defense against unwanted bacteria and viruses in the stomach. At present there are more than 500 published articles on LGG ® in international journals and more than 30 doctoral theses have been completed on LGG’s ® effect on health. More than 40 countries in different parts of the world market products with LGG ® (2).  The probiotic milk also a contained a strain of Bifidobacteria, which have also been used in numerous research studies.

Evidence is continually accumulating for the use of probiotics (and prebiotics) for health.  It is important to talk to your doctor or midwife before beginning any supplement regimen during pregnancy or when breastfeeding.

(1) C. K. Dotterud CK et al.  2010.  Probiotics in pregnant women to prevent allergic disease: a randomised, double-blind trial.   British Journal of Dermatology E-Pub prior to print.  10.1111/j.1365-2133.2010.09889.x

(2)Press release.   Norwegian University of Science and Technology.  http://www.ntnu.edu/probiotic-use-in-pregnancy

Written by Ani Kowal

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Is gluten intolerance on the increase?

According to Professor Markku Mäki, head of a research project in the Academy of Finland’s Research Programme on Nutrition, Food and Health (ELVIRA), the occurrence of gluten intolerance in the Finnish population has doubled in the past 20 years (1).  Although this study took place in Finland it is relevant to look at since many individuals in the UK are becoming increasingly concerned by food intolerance issues.  In the early 1980’s, about 1% of adults in Finland had gluten intolerance, but the figure has since gone up to 2% by the 2000’s.  In a press release (1) the professor stated “We’ve already seen a similar trend emerge earlier on where allergies and certain autoimmune disorders are concerned. Screening has shown that gluten intolerance occurs in 1.5 per cent of Finnish children and 2.7 per cent of the elderly. The higher figure for older people is explained by the fact that the condition becomes more frequent with age



In January I wrote about Food Allergy and Intolerance week and mentioned the charity Allergy UKAllergy UK is a national medical charity established to represent the views and needs of people with allergy, food intolerance and chemical sensitivity” 



Allergy UK say that “ Every patient with allergy or ‘intolerance’ should be able to get an adequate and appropriate allergy assessment through the NHS, with the right advice about avoidance of their triggers and management of their symptoms. Unfortunately NHS primary care allergy services are patchy and many people do not get the help they need.  Allergy UK continues to campaign for better provision of NHS allergy services but has also developed partnerships with others to provide paid-for allergy screening services for allergy sufferers who need them. Allergy UK ensures that the training for staff in these services is adequate and sensible, carries out audits and clinical governance and provides follow-up information and support for every person who uses these services”.  The charity also has a helpline 01322 619898 which can be called for information on your closest relevant NHS clinic or accredited screening services.  The website is full of information and certainly worth a visit


 


Although the information from Finland has not been duplicated in the UK it may well be relevant since it seems that increasing numbers of people are reporting experiencing symptoms of food intolerance.  According to Professor Mäki, gluten intolerance may often be symptom-free, and people may be unaware that they have the condition if their symptoms are mild or atypical. Three out of four people with gluten intolerance have not been diagnosed, which also means that they are as yet going without treatment (1).



Unfortunately diagnosis and screening methods are still not readily employed in the UK and there seems to be little consensus about which methods are best.  Professor Mäki’s research team has concluded that the criteria for diagnosing gluten intolerance must be rewritten. The current criteria for diagnosis tends to focus on damage to the intestines, established in a tissue sample from the small intestine. However, early stages of gluten intolerance are not identifiable from tissue samples.  People may suffer from gluten intolerance, yet have no intestinal symptoms. They may, however, have symptoms unrelated to the intestinal tract. Serious problems with nutrient absorption have become rare; instead, sufferers generally have anaemia due to iron deficiency or folic acid deficiency as their main symptom. If researchers manage to develop sensitive, accurate antibody tests, it will become possible to identify people with early stages of gluten intolerance, who are in need of further treatment. At present, there is no single test to reliably identify early stages of gluten intolerance (1).



A Food Intolerance fact sheet is available from Allergy UK and also mention a new food intolerance home testing kit, Food Detective™ which has been launched by Cambridge Nutritional Sciences Ltd.  If you think you may be suffering with a food allergy it would be worth using the website and calling the helpline for more information.  If you do purchase and use the home testing kit I would urge you to discuss the results with your GP, or call the Allergy UK helpline mentioned above.  It is never a good idea to simply cut out whole food groups as this can lead to nutritional deficiencies and other problems.



 



(1)Press release.  Academy of Finland Communications.  http://www.aka.fi/en-gb/A/Academy-of-Finland/The-Academy/Releases/Gluten-intolerance-in-Finland-has-doubled/


Written by Ani Kowal

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