Vitamin A, probiotics and fiber key to preventing allergies according to new research

Fiber-VitA-Probiotics_LRWonder why so many kids today are allergic to so many different foods?

According to a new study conducted by Australian researchers, eating a diet rich in fiber can actually “shape the immune system to reduce allergies.”

The study suggests that a simple bowl of bran and some dried apricots in the morning could prevent allergies. It also reveals how the immune system works with the good bacteria in the gut to help protect against life threatening allergic responses.

The research was conducted on mice at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and was published in the journal Cell Reports.

The study revealed that it may be a lack of fiber and probiotics in our modern diets that is causing the deadly rise in allergies—a supposition that is not new in the natural health field.

By determining how this happens, the researchers have suggested potential treatments to prevent food allergies.

Not surprisingly, these potential treatments are the very “fixes” that many naturopaths and nutritionists have been prescribing to their clients for over twenty years.

In addition to transitioning to a high-fiber diet, researchers suggested that allergy treatments include probiotics or prebiotics (healthy foodstuffs) that could work together to “recolonize the gut” and prevent or reverse allergies.

(For the uninitiated, probiotics–which are also known as “beneficial bacteria”–can come from supplements or from a variety of fermented foods.)

The research, performed largely by Jian Tan, a PhD student at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, found that mice allergic to peanuts were protected against the allergy when fed a high-fiber diet.

The fiber appears to act as a probiotic booster in that it literally “reshapes” the gut and colon microbiota.

The study revealed that as the fiber slowly reshaped the gut microbiota, it added a layer of protection against food allergies. When the “good bacteria” was transferred to mice without the beneficial bacteria it also reduced the symptoms of food allergies in those mice.

The recolonization of the gut happened through the breaking-down of fiber into short-chain fatty acids.

The scientists found that short-chain fatty acids boosted a particular subset of the immune system called dendritic cells, which control whether an allergic response against a food allergen happens or not.

Effectively, increased levels of short-chain fatty acids switch these cells to stop the allergic response, while a lack of fiber appeared to have an opposite effect. These specialized dendritic cells require vitamin A, another factor which can only be obtained through the diet. Vitamin A is high in vegetables and fruits.

While deficiency of vitamin A in adults is unusual, the researchers suggest that less than ideal levels of vitamin A in addition to short-chain fatty acids, could promote food allergies in infants. This may explain why the highest prevalence of allergies occurs in children and infants.

Mr Tan stated that the study had not only revealed how the immune system fails when a person becomes allergic, but how the immune system can be helped through diet to prevent or lessen the effects of allergies.

He said the next step was to conduct trials with humans to determine how a high-fiber diet can protect against challenges with allergic foodstuffs.

Read full details of the research at Cell Reports here.