Thursday, 19 November 2015

Can probiotics cure food allergies?

The holy grail for food allergies, for those of us who live with them, day by day, is a cure. Who wouldn't want to be able to eat freely, without having to peer at food labels, or ask umpteen questions in cafes and restaurants??

So far, the answer has been: There is no cure. Your child may or may not grow out of it. You just have to avoid x, y or z, or, in many cases, a combination of foods.

This is not easy. I've resigned myself to it, and cope with it as best I can, but as as my little one gets older, she becomes more aware of the foods that she is missing out on. Although she is generally a jolly little soul, it can make her frustrated, angry and sad... and then my heart bleeds for her!!

Now it seems that there is a little glimmer of hope on the horizon for allergy sufferers. This year there has been a lot of excitement in allergy circles over the LEAP study, which looked into trying to prevent nut allergies (there's a good breakdown of it here). Currently, there is also research going on into desensitization from peanut allergy at St Mary's Paddington for 8-16 year olds. 

The latest piece of good news concerns probiotics! 

I've known for some time, that imbalance in gut bacteria could be a reason why food allergy is on the rise these days. I'd read various articles online about it and Dr Adam Fox opened up the possibilities during his talk at The Allergy and Free From Show the other year.

The theory is that we've become too clean! We use so many bleaches and cleaners and antibiotics etc. that we've cleared out what is sometimes referred to as our 'old friends' - the 'friendly' or 'good' bacteria that helps our bodies and even our minds work well. I was a bit skeptical about this - anyone who visits my house will know that I'm not one for wielding the bleach about that often, if I can help it (mind you, this is partly because many household chemicals make me incredibly wheezy) so you wouldn't think we'd be affected!

However, a BBC Horizon programme the other year explained the connection with food allergies beautifully. It investigated how homes and guts of with allergic people had much less bacteria diversity!

This made a lot of sense to me, when I looked back and considered how much bleach my mum had flashed about the house when we were little (apparently we all came down with a lot of tummy bugs) and how OCD I became when pregnant. 

I fell pregnant just before the Swine Flu scare hit. I was teaching at the time, and although I was trying to avoid chemicals (to avoid adverse affects on my baby), we were advised to spray Dettol over tables and door handles etc. every morning before school. The OCD continued well after the birth too, with multiple antibacterial hand wipes being waved everywhere, although that said, the milk allergy kicked in almost straightaway.

Mind you, even without all the antibiotics, antibacterial wipes, etc. there is a history of food allergy in my family that goes back at least over the last hundred years, but then I'm guessing that lack of bacterial diversity in the home/gut could also be passed down through the generations.

The 'Old Friend's' theory made even more sense to me, when I reflected on my gluten problems, which began not long after I completed a course of antibiotics, which was soon followed by a stomach bug. Any further tummy bugs and antibiotics that I've had since have been followed up with a course of Optibac probiotic tablets - their antibiotic version, (see here) really seem to help stop the otherwise almost inevitable yeast infection break out. I've also found probiotic coconut yogurt helpful (this one). BUT my gut has not ever completely returned to normal.

Must admit I love Co-yo, probiotics or not!

It appears, though, that probiotics really could provide an answer, BUT you have to know which (among the trillions of varieties) is the strain that will work! It's a huge task, isolating a specific strain, but recent research seems to have cracked a part of the puzzle!

It's now been confirmed that dairy free infant formula that has had a particular strain of probiotic added to it, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG or LGG, for short, has had a positive effect on the babies that have received it (see here for a readable article, and here for something a bit more technical). This is great news indeed!

In case you're wondering, LGG has already been added to a dairy free formula, by Nutramigen, that is available here in the UK. Nutramigen's products are listed here. If your little one is currently using this formula, I'd be interested to know how you get on, and if you've been prescribed some other formula, it may be worth your while discussing things with your Doctor, as they may be able to switch you onto it.

If you are an adult and would like to give LGG a try, then you can buy it here in the UK (and also the US) Culturelle Probiotic LGG (which is the brand of probiotic used by Nutramigen) is available on Amazon and other online outlets (more info about this product here). Confusingly, apparently the packet says it is dairy free, but Amazon site information says it may contain traces.

There is also a child's chewable version (see here) BUT it is hugely pricey, at over £30 for a pack of thirty! 


I've been having a bit of a think about that one. I mean, how many would one need?? One course?? Two?? Three?? It's a BIG BIG ask financially, if it's a long term thing!! And what if the kiddo decides she won't have them, because she don't like 'em?? But then, what if it works?? 


Fortunately, there are other options out there, Solgar is one of them. Here's the adults version, which is much cheaper than Culturelle, and here's the kid's version. It's almost half the price of the other one, but out of stock via Amazon at the mo. For other stockists, see here. There may well also be others.

Please note, there may be a socially embarrassing side effect - yes, wind! The antidote to which is spelled out here (PHEW!).

Obviously, this isn't a cure as such, the article to which I originally referred mentions that not ALL who had the formula improved, those that did, responded well within the first year, which indicates a golden window of opportunity which we have missed, I'm not sure whether that means it still might work (so is worth a try), or not. However, work is now being done on translating this research into a proper treatment. There's still so much to learn, but it is certainly a fascinating glimpse of the light at the end of a dark and dreary tunnel!

As for me, I'm not sure that LGG will crack my multiple problems, so I'm still hoping for fecal transplants to become a standard treatment, for re-balancing dodgy guts - yes it's been done and seems to work for some gut conditions. Although hopefully, they will find a less messy way of going about it! 

I know... 


But anything is better than living without... I don't do this for the fun of it, you know!

Please note: 
This post is not an advert. I have not been paid to write this post. I am not sponsored in any way, even by advertising. I do not receive products free to review, although I have often been offered them. This is to try and maintain an unbiased approach. All views expressed are my own (unless I've asked for The Hub's or Kiddo's).

Related Posts:

How to have an allergy free baby

Are we really allergic?


  1. Interesting post! I've recently come to the conclusion that I'm not digesting certain foods properly, and I wondered if it was because I no longer eat dairy and I'm not getting the benefit of probiotics from yoghurts etc as I used to. I've tried the Co-Yo yoghurts a couple of times recently, but at £2 a pot I can't buy them all the time!

  2. I am so sorry but I have only just read your post! It has been so busy that getting around my favourite blogs isn't happening as much as it should! I can hugely recommend Symprove. It is the only probiotic with independent clinical research to prove that it gets to the gut and populates it. It is water based and is gluten and dairy free and if you are going to give anything a go (bar faecal transplant) then I would go with this. At around £2 per day it is not cheap but then your health is priceless. It has done wonders for me...

  3. Probiotics are safe for kids but are they beneficial? Researchers haven’t done an awful lot of work when it comes to identifying the health benefits that little ones can experience from probiotic supplementation. Still, a couple of clinical studies provide positive results.

    In a 2005 study, researchers worked with 200 infants. The babies were given probiotics over the course of 12 weeks. On the average, kids that were given a probiotic supplement suffered from diarrhea much less frequently than the babies that were given a placebo.