Reduce Allergy Symptoms by Balancing Immune FunctionMay 2018
By Steven Rosen
Seasonal allergies affect over 50 million adults.1,2
Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in America, costing society in excess of $18 billion annually.1
During allergy season, people use an assortment of over-the-counter medications for runny noses and itchy eyes.
Certain allergy medications have now been shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s, among other side effects.3
Most allergy drugs treat symptoms, but do nothing to stop the underlying cause—an out-of-balance immune response.
This immune imbalance is what causes the body to overreact to harmless substances, and results in annoying allergy symptoms.
A probiotic and yeast compound have demonstrated robust effects in balancing the immune response and suppressing allergy attacks.
When allergy sufferers were given a unique probiotic or novel yeast compound, results from three different studies revealed:
- 43% fewer days with nasal congestion,
- 24% reduction in swollen nasal passages, and
- 31% reduction in eye symptoms.4-6
For many sufferers of seasonal allergies, this probiotic or yeast restrained immune overreaction starting in the digestive track.
Getting to the Root of Seasonal Allergies
An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system overreacts to something in the environment that is harmless to most people.
When the body perceives a threat from an allergen such as dust or pollen, it swings into defensive action. The result is watering eyes and a runny nose designed to flush out the allergen from the body.
These allergy symptoms are the last in a long domino effect of reactions involving the body’s immune-system cells.
Once an allergy attack occurs, most people reach for over-the-counter medications for relief. The problem is that antihistamines, steroids (like Flonase®), and decongestants only provide temporary relief.
A better solution is to stop the body from overreacting to harmless threats like pollen or dust.
For that to happen we need to restore normal immune balance—and that involves retraining immune system cells in the Th2 family.
Th2 cells are also known as T helper type 2 cells. Th2 cells play a role in organizing a protective immune response to outside invaders such as allergens.
Balancing the Immune System
When there is an overreaction of Th2 cells to an irritant such as dust or pollen, it forces the immune system into high alert. The result is an allergic reaction, and the body works to protect itself from the perceived threat.
Scientists in Japan and the U.S. have uncovered two compounds that help restore normal Th2 balance and reduce the immune system’s allergic responses.
These two ingredients, yeast fermentate and Lactobacillus acidophilus L-92 reduce symptoms by lowering the allergic response to pollen and other allergens.
As a result, this probiotic and yeast compound can quell allergy symptoms without resorting to anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, or decongestant drugs.
Let’s look at the evidence from human clinical studies.
Baker’s Yeast Modulates the Immune System
Baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) provides the leavening for dough to rise, and the fermentation to brew beer. But it also has the ability to help modulate the immune system.
A special fermented form of baker’s yeast called dried yeast fermentate has favorable effects on the immune balance (specifically preventing overactive Th2) that is essential for retraining an overactive immune response associated with seasonal allergies.
Because dried yeast fermentate has these immune-balancing benefits, scientists wanted to find out if it would have an impact on allergies. They tested its effects on hay fever and grass pollen—and it proved capable of reducing both the severity and duration of symptoms.
Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, is a type of inflammation in the nose that occurs when the immune system overreacts to allergens in the air. The result is a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, and red, itchy, watery eyes—symptoms that are similar to a common cold.
In a pilot study, 25 healthy subjects were treated with dried yeast fermentate (500 mg/day) or placebo for five weeks during the beginning of the allergy season.7
Half of those taking the yeast supplement reported complete absence of seasonal allergies. Once they stopped taking the supplement, the allergy symptoms returned. The placebo group had no change or relief from their symptoms.
One of the causes of hay fever symptoms are antibodies called IgE. Based on this study, researchers surmised that yeast fermentate helps reduce IgE.
IgE causes the body to release chemicals (like histamines) that cause an allergic reaction and produce symptoms that can affect the eyes, nose, throat, lungs, or skin.
Over the course of this five-week study, as the allergy season went into full swing, blood levels of IgE steadily increased among placebo recipients indicating heightened allergic responses.
In those subjects taking the yeast fermentate, IgE levels barely changed, indicating a reduced allergic reaction. The conclusion from this study is that yeast fermentate calms allergic responses by stabilizing IgE levels.
A larger study included 96 people who all had seasonal grass-pollen allergies.4 Subjects took 500 mg of yeast fermentate or placebo daily for 12 weeks during the highest pollen-count portion of the year.
Compared to those taking the placebo, the supplemented subjects experienced two significant benefits:
- A decrease in the severity of runny nose and nasal congestion,
- A 43% reduction in total days with nasal congestion.4
They also experienced a decrease in the number of inflammatory white blood cells in their nasal mucus. This objective indicator shows a reduction in the activation of allergy-causing cells.
Reducing the severity of symptoms as well as the number of days with symptoms offers real quality-of-life improvements for those who suffer from seasonal allergies.
Probiotic Improves Seasonal Allergies
Besides yeast fermentate, probiotics have also been found to have beneficial effects against allergies. This makes sense, since probiotics are essential for maintaining a healthy gut, where more than 70% of the immune system resides.
Some probiotics are more effective than others against seasonal allergy symptoms. After comparing 12 strains of probiotics in a laboratory study, one strain in particular stood out for its impact on seasonal allergies: heat-treated Lactobacillus acidophilus L-92 (HT L-92).8,9
Animal studies have shown that this specialized probiotic strain reduces the inflammatory IgE antibodies as does the yeast fermentate. They also demonstrated significant reductions in substances associated with Th2, and increases in cells that bring about better immune balance.8,10
This preliminary data paved the way for three important clinical studies that support the use of heat-treated Lactobacillus acidophilus L-92 for the treatment and prevention of seasonal allergies.
Preventing Seasonal Allergies
The first clinical study was conducted in Japan among people with seasonal allergies to Japanese cedar pollen, a potent allergen. The study was conducted over the course of two annual allergy seasons. Subjects received a heat-treated probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus L-92 or a placebo.5
In the first allergy season, supplemented subjects experienced a 31% reduction in their eye symptom/medication score—a score representing the combination of symptoms experienced and medications used. A lower score is an improvement because it means reduced itchy and watery eyes and fewer medications.
In the second allergy season, there was also a significant reduction in the total eye symptom/medication score.
This study showed a trend toward lower scores for swelling and color of the membranes lining the nostrils.5 Color is an important objective indicator because allergic mucous membranes appear pale, while healthy, non-inflamed ones are pink.
Tackling Year-Round Allergies
The same research group conducted a second study that involved 49 people with year-round hay fever.6 This condition can be even harder to manage than seasonal allergies.
For this study, subjects received either a placebo or a heat-treated probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus L-92 every day for eight weeks.6
The physician examinations found an approximate 28% improvement in the color of nasal mucous membranes at week six, and an approximate 24% reduction in swelling of the nasal membranes at week eight.6
In addition, patient-reported symptom/medication scores fell by an approximate 19% compared with placebo recipients at week eight. There was also a trend for improvement in eye symptoms (like itchiness and redness).
Seasonal Allergy Treatment
The third study was a bit different because it showed the ability of the heat-treated probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus L-92 to alleviate allergy symptoms even if people didn’t start taking the supplement until after they were exposed to the allergen.
For this study, 80 people with an allergy to cedar pollen were exposed to cedar pollen for three hours before receiving the probiotic.9 The study lasted for eight weeks.
Compared with placebo recipients, supplemented patients had a 2.5-fold improvement in nasal symptoms and a 4.7-fold improvement in eye symptoms. These findings were considered to be statistically significant.9
Taken together, these findings demonstrate important reductions in symptoms of seasonal and year-round allergies, both in runny nose and in itchy eyes.
Lactobacillus acidophilus L-92 has also been shown to have favorable effects in another related allergic condition: eczema (also called atopic dermatitis). Eczema is an allergic response that is characterized by itchy, scaly, weeping lesions on the skin, and it can happen on parts of the body that don’t come into direct contact with the allergen.
This skin condition was once primarily a childhood illness, but is becoming more common in adults.11,12
Research has now demonstrated that taking Lactobacillus acidophilus L-92 results in a more than 50% reduction in symptom scores for eczema.13,14 One study showed that it helped reduce the spread of the condition from one part of the body to another.15
Clearly, this supplement’s capacity to restore equilibrium to an imbalanced immune system is driving improvements in various allergy-related symptoms throughout the body.
Current tools used against seasonal allergies all focus on the end result of the complex domino effect that produces the symptoms.
A novel approach that is gaining traction among clinicians and scientists is to intervene much earlier in that process, to restore the normal balance between immune system cells that promote reactions to allergens and those that suppress such reactions.
Yeast fermentate and Lactobacillus acidophilus L-92 show promise at restoring the disrupted immune balance.
Studies in humans and animals have shown that this “retraining” of the immune system reduces the effects that produce the allergic symptoms. The result is a reduction in symptoms and duration of seasonal allergies—and, ultimately, an improvement in quality of life.
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- Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/ToolsTemplates/EntertainmentEd/Tips/Allergies.html. Accessed November 8, 2016.
- Available at: http://www.aafa.org/page/allergy-facts.aspx. Accessed November 8, 2016.
- Gray SL, Anderson ML, Dublin S, et al. Cumulative use of strong anticholinergics and incident dementia: a prospective cohort study. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(3):401-7.
- Moyad MA, Robinson LE, Kittelsrud JM, et al. Immunogenic yeast-based fermentation product reduces allergic rhinitis-induced nasal congestion: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Adv Ther. 2009;26(8):795-804.
- Ishida Y, Nakamura F, Kanzato H, et al. Effect of milk fermented with Lactobacillus acidophilus strain L-92 on symptoms of Japanese cedar pollen allergy: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2005;69(9):1652-60.
- Ishida Y, Nakamura F, Kanzato H, et al. Clinical effects of Lactobacillus acidophilus strain L-92 on perennial allergic rhinitis: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Dairy Sci. 2005;88(2):527-33.
- Jensen GS, Patterson, K.M., Barnes, J., Schauss, A.G., Beaman, R., Reeves, S.G. and Robinson, L.E.,. A double-blind placebo-controlled, randomized pilot study: consumption of a high-metabolite immunogen from yeast culture has beneficial effects on erythrocyte health and mucosal immune protection in healthy subjects. The Open Nutrition Journal. 2008;2:pp.68-75.
- Ishida Y, Bandou I, Kanzato H, et al. Decrease in ovalbumin specific IgE of mice serum after oral uptake of lactic acid bacteria. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2003;67(5):951-7.
- Enomoto MI, T; Take, CR; et. al. . Effects of oral ingestion of L. acidophilus GRAS L. acidophilus L-92 strain on the cedar pollen allergy - Verification of preventive action in artificial exposure facility. The 56th Annual Meeting of the Japanese Society of Allergology, Tokyo, Japan. 2006.
- Torii A, Torii S, Fujiwara S, et al. Lactobacillus Acidophilus strain L-92 regulates the production of Th1 cytokine as well as Th2 cytokines. Allergol Int. 2007;56(3):293-301.
- Koch C, Dolle S, Metzger M, et al. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation in atopic eczema: a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial. Br J Dermatol. 2008;158(4):786-92.
- Weidinger S, Novak N. Atopic dermatitis. The Lancet. 387(10023):1109-22.
- Torii S, Torii A, Itoh K, et al. Effects of oral administration of Lactobacillus acidophilus L-92 on the symptoms and serum markers of atopic dermatitis in children. Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2011;154(3):236-45.
- Yamamoto K, Yokoyama K, Matsukawa T, et al. Efficacy of prolonged ingestion of Lactobacillus acidophilus L-92 in adult patients with atopic dermatitis. J Dairy Sci. 2016;99(7):5039-46.
- Inoue Y, Kambara T, Murata N, et al. Effects of oral administration of Lactobacillus acidophilus L-92 on the symptoms and serum cytokines of atopic dermatitis in Japanese adults: a double-blind, randomized, clinical trial. Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2014;165(4):247-54.
- Kidd P. Th1/Th2 balance: the hypothesis, its limitations, and implications for health and disease. Altern Med Rev. 2003;8(3):223-46.
- Maggi E. The TH1/TH2 paradigm in allergy. Immunotechnology. 1998;3(4):233-44.