The splendor of autumn with its landscape of changing leaves and crisp blue skies is undeniable--but if you're one of the 50 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, you might wish you could skip right to the frosty depths of winter. Whatever your symptoms, often ranging from a runny nose and intense sinus pressure to itchy, watery eyes and persistent sneezing, seasonal allergies can be incredibly disruptive to your daily life. Over-the-counter and prescription allergy medicines abound, but these medications can carry intense side effects while bringing only temporary relief. So what can someone with oppressive seasonal allergies do to find more long-lasting relief from their symptoms?
"Good" bacteria plays a pivotal role in a wide variety of immune system functions, and the right strains of probiotics can help you breathe easier in the brisk autumn weather.
The Role of Good Bacteria in Building Your Immune System
Understanding how probiotics can help you get through periods of seasonal allergies begins with understanding how good bacteria affects your immune system. It all starts with your microbiome, or the community of bacteria and other microorganisms that inhabit the human body. Contrary to much of popular belief for the last several decades, having a robust population of good bacteria is very important for maintaining your overall health. There are a number of different subsets of a person's microbiome, but the two that directly affect seasonal allergy relief are those of your mouth and digestive tract.
The hundreds of different strains of good bacteria (a.k.a. probiotics) that make up the oral and gut microbiome play a variety of roles in regulating your health. Your oral and gut microbiome are closely connected, and they work together to ward off disease and help other key systems in your body function more effectively. In relation to seasonal allergy relief, there are two key roles that healthy oral and gut microbiomes can play: guarding against the introduction of disease into your body and generally promoting a healthy immune system response.
How Probiotics Can Cut Down on Inflammation
Seasonal allergies often cause oppressive symptoms in one particular way: by triggering inflammation, particular in the sinus passages. Typically, an allergic reaction causes a single inflammatory response. However, studies have shown that repeated exposure to allergens--for example, by going outside everyday during the worst days of allergy season--can lead to chronic allergic inflammation. This syndrome can play a big role in producing the pressure and stuffy nose often associated with seasonal allergies.
However, probiotics can help combat this type of inflammation. Medical studies have revealed that the use of probiotic supplements has shown promise in reducing the inflammation inherent to certain seasonal allergic reactions such as allergic rhinitis (more commonly known as hay fever).
Specific Examples of Probiotics' Ability to Combat Seasonal Allergy Symptoms
Scientists and doctors are increasingly examining how probiotics affect the body's response to seasonal allergens, and the results show the widespread benefits of probiotic use for allergy sufferers.
For example, a study conducted by researchers in France, Germany and Denmark found that seasonal allergy sufferers who supplemented with the L. paracasei probiotic reported improved quality of life and a reduction in itchy, watery eyes. Similarly, University of California researchers found that the probiotic L. sakei could protect against sinus infections in those with seasonal allergies--great news for anyone who has suffered through that stuffy, clogged head feeling.
In short, the specific scientific evidence supporting the benefits of probiotic use by seasonal allergy sufferers is strong and growing.
How You Can Use the Power of Probiotics to Treat Your Own Seasonal Allergy Symptoms
The first step in reaping the benefits of good bacteria to fight the effects of seasonal allergies is the simplest: incorporate a probiotic supplement into your daily routine. Since the range of positive side effects of a healthy microbiome is vast, you'll probably want to keep this up long after allergy season. In addition, steer clear of unnecessary use of products that can deplete your body's good bacteria, including anti-bacterial mouthwashes, hand sanitizer and antibacterial cleansers.
These simple steps can help you enhance your natural defenses and boost your immune system to be ready for winter's onslaught.