Allergies and the Gut

Allergies and the Gut

Allergies are becoming increasingly common in the UK. It is thought they affect more than 1 in 4 people at some point in their lives, and many believe that number will increase. The most common types of allergies are:

  • Pollen from trees, grass and plants (hayfever)
  • Animal dander
  • Dust mites
  • Insect stings
  • Mould
  • Food
  • Latex
  • Medication
  • Household chemicals

It’s believed that many people may have minor allergies to something and never actually know they are allergic. For those that have more of a reaction, common symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • A runny or blocked nose.
  • Red, itchy, watery eye.
  • Wheezing and coughing.
  • A red, itchy rash.
  • Worsening of asthma or eczema symptoms.
  • Tummy pain.
  • Nausea and diarrhoea.

In the most severe cases, a reaction called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can occur and are potentially life-threatening.

So, the question is, can gut health play a role in allergies? That is a tricky question to answer as it’s a topic that needs a lot more research. That said, however, most scientists do seem to agree that allergies and gut health are connected.

As a side note, it is important to realise that there is a difference between an intolerance and an allergy. An intolerance such as lactose, alcohol or gluten never cause anaphylactic shock but can lead to digestive issues such as bloating, constipation or diarrhoea. Some severe intolerances may require medical treatment.

Back to gut health and allergies. There is mounting evidence that links allergies and your gut microbiome. As we mentioned in our ‘The Basics of Your Gut’ post “[a balanced] microbiome will aid digestion, break down food, make vitamins and nutrients, protect our body against the contents of the gut and the overgrowth of bacteria, influence our mood and impact our immune system”.

If our gut microbiome is unbalanced, the body becomes worse at recognising antigens, and the immune system will begin to attack what it thinks is an antigen. For those who suffer from hay fever, histamine is the responsible culprit for your runny nose and itchy eyes. There is more evidence showing that those with poor gut health struggle to deal with histamine efficiently. Nevertheless, it should be noted there is a genetic factor to histamine intolerances too.

In conclusion, it is worth remembering there is no specific gut allergy. However, a healthy gut microbiome may help relieve and potentially stop the body’s response to allergens. Food intolerances, however, such as gluten and lactose, have different symptoms and do directly impact the gut. So, to put it simply, improving your gut health may be one way to reduce your allergy symptoms and put that sniffly nose behind you.

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