Food Allergies And The Gut Microbiome
Food allergies have become more and more prevalent in the recent years, affecting millions of people worldwide. And some of these reactions can be anywhere from just a mild symptom to even a life-threatening reaction. So it's really important and essential for us to start understanding what are the underlying causes of these allergies.
Now, as a gut health dietitian, one area of research that is emerging is linking the gut microbiome to food allergies. And our gut microbiome is the community of microorganisms in our intestinal tract that help and play a crucial role in our health as well as our immune system.
My name is Marcie Vaske and I'm a functional medicine nutritionist specializing in gut health. And so I see many people who struggle with constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, heartburn, and also food sensitivities and food allergies. And so this is a fun topic for me to cover because I think it's important to educate on.
And so if you or someone you know or love feels like you have a gut issue, I'm going to link our website down below where you can easily make an initial appointment. And I'm also going to link our free guide, which is five Ways to Improve Gut Health. So if you want to get some more information or just learn more about gut health in general, that's going to be a great resource for you.
So today I'm going to dig into the food allergies and the connection to our gut microbiome, sharing some latest research that has come out, and as well as some potential strategies to help manage these food allergies.
Now, before we jump back into the link between the gut microbiome and food allergies, I just want to explain a little bit more about what is the gut microbiome. And our gut microbiome is, as I said, made up of millions and trillions of different kinds of microorganisms in our intestinal tract.
In these microorganisms we call the gut microbiota or flora, or you might be taking probiotics which have good flora. So those are the good things that we want to have in our digestive system.
And so what does the gut microbiome really do?
And it's important and crucial in digestion in the way that we absorb our minerals and our vitamins from our foods, as well as keeping a strong immune system. Now, our gut microbiome can literally change from day to day, but over time what is really affecting it, and there are a few factors such as genetics, the foods that you consume, environmental factors, medications, these are all going to play a role in what kind of organisms we have in our intestinal tracts.
Now of course, in a healthy individual with a healthy digestive tract is going to have an array of microorganisms within their gut, and that's what we want.
We want a lot of diversity and that's going to come from eating. What we always talk about on this channel is whole foods, so good proteins, lots of vegetables and fruits as well as those healthy fats that's going to keep a more diverse flora population in our gut.
However, if we're not keeping up with having good foods on a daily basis, and maybe our diet is consisting of more damaged fats, so our packaging processed foods or more sugar, that's going to take a toll on our microbiome.
And when that microbiome gets compromised, then what happens is that it sets the stage for more opportunistic or even pathogenic bacteria to take its place. And this is where this link between the gut microbiome and food allergies can take place.
Now, I discussed what the gut microbiome is, but let's talk about what an actual food allergy is.
And a food allergy is where an individual is having immune response to the protein within that food. So what's taking place is that when you consume a food that you have an allergy to your body mistakes it as an invader and a toxin that it needs to get rid of so it starts attacking itself.
And so some of those symptoms of a food allergy, as I said, could be a mild reaction such as a hive, or maybe you feel like a tingling in your mouth or you feel itchy all the way to a life-threatening condition such as anaphylaxis where the throat is closing and cutting off of your airway, which of course you should seek medical attention at that point.
But food allergies so can really range within a very wide and vast variety of different symptoms.
So now we know what the gut microbiome is and now we have a better understanding of what a food allergy is. And so now we want to talk a little bit about the research in which it's connecting these two together.
So in recent years, research is really showing that somebody who has more food allergens also has a gut microbiome that has been compromised compared to an individual that has a healthy microbiome and lots of diversity.
And as I said, the way that we're going to have a more compromised digestive system is through the foods we eat, environmental factors. It can even be in some parts genetic. And so we want to really keep up that strong microbiome to help reduce the amount of allergens or at least, or even get rid of food allergies.
Now, one way that research is to seeing this gut microbiome and food allergies being a connection is that our microbiome really teaches our immune system.
And so if we have less diversity of flora in our gut, then what happens is that our immune system gets dysregulated. And so it responds overactivity, as I said earlier, thinking that a food that you've consumed or the protein in it and they need to invade it and start tacking it.
So when this little balance of our microbiome gets dysregulated or disrupted, we often will see more food allergens. Now, another way that research is finding a connection between the two is that certain bacteria actually can help to promote more wellness and also reduce the immune reaction in the gut versus and vice versa.
And so what we're seeing is that when we have a compromised gut microbiome, we often have more opportunistic bacteria, which then sets the stage to dysregulate that immune system.
Now, one example is going to be types of bacteria that help to produce what we call short-chain fatty acids.
And short-chain fatty acids help to reduce inflammation in our digestive system. And if we have too many of those opportunistic bacteria, then they produce metabolites that actually cause inflammation in the gut, whereas disrupting the microbiome and then, of course, increasing that immune reaction to certain proteins in our foods.
So you might be somewhat out there who's listening and saying, yeah, I do have some food allergies, and so how can I minimize or use strategies to help keep them under wraps?
And of course, I already talked about one of 'em, which is really looking at your diet and keeping up a consistency of healthy whole real foods.
So good proteins, vegetables, and fruits and healthy fats. Those are all going to keep a nice balanced diet.
And with that, keeping a more diverse microbiome.
Now of course, if you notice that there's a food that kind of makes your mouth tingle or you do notice that you get a hive, those need to stay out of your diet until you can build up your gut microbiome again.
Now, can you get rid of food allergies?
It is possible, but I would say if you've had an allergy, I would just take that food out and just kind of accept that that's a food that you can't have.
Now, another way to help your gut microbiome is of course going to be taking probiotics.
Now, I think that taking probiotics can be extremely helpful for so many different conditions. And of course on this channel we talk a lot about probiotics, but mindful that just taking a probiotic isn't going to magically reduce and get rid of all of your symptoms if there are other underlying factors going on, such as maybe your diet.
If your diet is intact, then taking a probiotic isn't going to do all the work that it can do. So these things kind of have to go hand in hand. And probiotics again can be really helpful.
And I think taking them and being really smart about it, adding in and layering in also your diet and also the way you sleep and lifestyle factors. But in addition to probiotics, you might even want to try some prebiotics.
I talked about short-chain fatty acids a moment ago, and prebiotics really help set the stage for more short-chain fatty acid production in our gut, which decreases that inflammation.
And of course, that's what we want when we want to reduce an allergen and an allergen to a food, and of course, keeping us healthy.
Now, another strategy to keeping your gut healthy and your microbiome healthy will be reducing any kind of antibiotic use that you might have to take. Now, of course, we need to take antibiotics. Sometimes there's that, they are crucial in our life, but unneeded ones, trying to find different ways to reduce overgrowth of bacteria by not taking antibiotics.
There's a lot of different varieties of things, and then of course, it depends on what you're dealing with, but just being smart about it. And I think that that helps to set up obviously, a different and better microbiome as we take antibiotics. It kills hundreds of our good flora all the time, and so we don't want to take them needlessly.
And lastly, and I talk about this all the time as well, probably just as much as food on this channel is watching your stress levels. Now, stress can come just really take a toll on our digestive system. And sometimes we don't even realize that we're stressed out.
But if we carry kind of some internal stresses or we have this chronic low-grade stress that we're almost used to, because it just feels like from day to day check in, check into yourself and realize that if you need to take some time, take a five-minute break, whatever it might be, but watch your stress levels because stress is so damaging to our health in general.
So you can see that the microbiome and food allergies definitely have a link depending on what kind of diversity you have in your gut or lack of diversity you have in your gut, depending on what kind of bacteria you might be having in your digestive system.
And all of these things are like a cycle. If your gut is healthy, so many other systems in your body are healthy. So if you are struggling with gut health, I really do recommend you work with a practitioner here at Oswald Digestive Clinic.
We see all sorts of people. Sometimes they don't even come in for gut health, but it turns out that there's some things we can work on that help what they actually came in for, which could be things like sleep or hormones even. And so good luck to you. I hope you feel well stay healthy and have a great fall.
If you'd like to explore any of this information further or obtain an individualized nutrition plan, you can schedule an initial appointment at our clinic. We also take insurance and some of our clients get full coverage, which is great.
Curious about what type of gut you have? Take our Free Quiz now!