Gut health and allergies - how they are associated with each other

from Mag. Margit Weichselbraun
on 31.05.2023

If you are struggling with allergies, you should not only focus on your symptoms, but also turn your attention towards the very centre of your body. Ultimately, an imbalance in the intestine can promote the occurrence of allergies.

Can allergies be caused by gut problems?

More and more studies suggest that there is a link between the excessive immune response that occurs with allergies and an imbalance in the intestine. This is not all that surprising, as the gut and immune system are closely linked. Containing almost 80 percent of all immune cells, the intestines are home to the vast majority of our immune system. Together with an intact intestinal mucosa, which represents the mechanical boundary, the intestinal flora and the intestinal immune system form a 3-phase defence against undesirable germs and substances. If the intestinal balance is impaired (e.g. due to a miscolonisation in the intestinal flora and/or a damaged intestinal mucosa), this can also affect our immune system and promote the onset of hypersensitivity or an overreaction to allergens.

What role do the intestinal flora play in our immune system?

The intestinal flora interact with our immune system. Useful intestinal bacteria not only fight off pathogens and pollutants, but also act as a "training camp" for our entire immune system. Here, our immune cells collect valuable "fighting" experience and also learn – especially in the first year of life – to distinguish between friend (the body's own or harmless antigens) and enemy. This “immune tolerance” is considered an important property of an intact immune system. In addition, these microscopic intestinal inhabitants also stimulate the formation of the body’s own defences, which benefit the entire organism.

However, our own bacterial zoo does not just train our immune cells. It also strengthens our intestinal barrier by breaking down non-digestible fibres into short-chain fatty acids, which in turn nourish our upper intestinal mucosal cells. If, however, the barrier function of the intestinal mucosa is impaired, uncontrolled substances such as allergens can increasingly enter the bloodstream and thus promote hypersensitivity or an overreaction of the immune system.

What role do the intestinal bacteria (= intestinal flora) play in connection with allergies?

Allergies are becoming increasingly common worldwide. Since the middle of the last century, allergies have increased sharply, especially in the major cities of developed countries. In addition to changing environmental conditions (e.g. higher pollen count), dietary habits and lifestyles, researchers suspect that this trend is also based on the sharp rise in hygiene standards (“hygienic hypothesis”), which can make the “inexperienced” immune system more sensitive to allergens.

Most changes in the environment also affect human bacterial colonisation (e.g. skin, mucous membranes, intestines). While the intestinal flora of primitive peoples, such as those in the Amazon region, comprise a wide variety of intestinal germs, the intestinal flora of people from developed countries has already lost 40% of its biodiversity. Studies indicate that a high microbial diversity in the intestinal flora (mouse model), as well as in the environment (e.g. children living on farms), is associated with a lower risk of allergic diseases, such as asthma or hay fever.

The composition of our intestinal flora has been affected not only by the rise in hygiene standards, but also by changed dietary habits. Ready meals and industrially processed foods often contain preservatives that kill the microorganisms in the food – our immune system is less exposed to germs and can thus become more susceptible to allergies.

Can gut remediation provide support?

A healthy immune system starts in the intestine. Gut remediation can therefore prove a sensible approach for tackling allergic diseases. Specialist doctors and therapists can provide professional support during “intestinal rehabilitation”. Following detailed laboratory diagnostics, they are able to tackle the individual intestinal situation in a targeted manner.

If you want to get your intestinal flora back on track yourself, you can follow a simple 2-stage programme:

Step 1

create a clear environment in your bowel by starting the remediation process with an intestinal cleanse. Radical laxatives such as castor oil, bitter or glaze salt are often used for this purpose - but prior consultation with healthcare professionals is absolutely recommended. A gentler course of treatment features a plant-based and natural diet that helps the bowel to regenerate. This approach can be accompanied by targeted natural “intestinal cleansing products”, such as psyllium seeds and flaxseeds.

Step 2

It is possible to start rehabilitating the intestines during this cleansing process. In this case, the focus is on strengthening the intestinal mucosa as well as colonising the bowel with beneficial organisms. Special nutrients (e.g.L-glutaminevitamin Cvitamin Dselenium and zinc) benefit our intestinal mucosa, while probiotics and prebiotics (e.g. dextrin, inulin, acacia fibres, citrus pectin) help to build up a "good" intestinal flora.

Want to know more about gut remediation? Then continue reading here:

From bowel cleansing to bowel reconstruction

Early probiotic intake arms children against allergies

Our bowel and its tiny inhabitants play a central role in our health. According to a large scientific review (meta-analysis), taking probiotics in children at an especially early stage has a positive effect on the development of childhood allergies.

An adult’s intestine has 10-100 trillion microorganisms, which can be made up of up to 500 different species. Nowadays, people are increasingly aware of the importance of a healthy gut flora for a well-functioning immune system. A large-scale review (meta-analysis) examined 25 scientifically high-quality studies, which dealt with the intake of probiotics by mothers during pregnancy and with the administration of probiotics to newborns. The study evaluation showed that taking probiotics can be seen to reduce the children’s IgE levels (-> elevated levels are considered an indication of an allergy). In addition, the risk of developing an atopic disease (e.g. hay fever, atopic dermatitis, allergic asthma) in childhood was reduced. While timing did not seem to play a role in reducing IgE levels, this was certainly the case with regard to the risk of atopy. Here, a preventive effect could only be observed if the probiotic intake was already started during pregnancy.

Nancy Elazab, MDa, et al. Probiotic Administration in Early Life, Atopy, and Asthma: A Meta-analysis of Clinical Trials. PEDIATRICS vol. 132 No. 3 September 1, 2013 pp. e666 -e676.

Conclusion: The intestine is the cradle of our immune system. In this sense, allergy sufferers should focus on the balance of their core body.

FAQ: Gut Health & Allergies

Studies show that healthy intestinal flora, which has a large bacterial variety, is associated with a lower risk of allergic diseases.

The bowel is the headquarters of our immune defence. If the bowel is impaired, this can alter our immune response and promote the occurrence of allergies.

Studies indicate that lactobacilli, especially the strain Lactobacillus paracasei, can be beneficial for allergy sufferers.

Our immune system is always involved in an allergy. Here, a mostly harmless substance triggers an excessive immune reaction (= allergic reaction).

Further reading:

Steiner, N.C., Lorentz, A. et al. 2021. Probiotic Potential of Lactobacillus Species in Allergic Rhinitis. Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2021;182(9):807-818. doi:Epub 2021 Apr 21.

Noda, M., Kanno K., et al. 2021. Plant-Derived Lactobacillus paracasei IJH-SONE68 Improves Chronic Allergy Status: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients. 2021 Nov 11;13(11):4022. doi: 10.3390/nu13114022.

Peroni, D. Hufnagl, K. et al. 2023. Lack of iron, zinc and vitamins as a contributor to the etiology of atopic diseases. Front Nutr. 2023 Jan 9;9:1032481. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2022.1032481. eCollection 2022.

Li, Q. Zhou, Q. et al. 2022. Vitamin D Supplementation and Allergic Diseases during Childhood: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis; Nutrients. 2022 Sep 23;14(19):3947.

Wang, S.-Y., Wang, Y.-f. et al. 2020. Serum level and clinical significance of vitamin E in children with allergic rhinitis; BMC Pediatrics volume 20, Article number: 362.

Seo, J.-H., Kwon, S.-O. et al. 2013. Association of antioxidants with allergic rhinitis in children from seoul; Allergy Asthma Immunol Res 2013 Mar;5(2):81-7.

Hufnagl, K., Pali-Schöll, I. et. al. 2020. Dysbiosis of the gut and lung microbiome has a role in asthma. Semin Immunopathol. 2020 Feb;42(1):75-93. doi: 10.1007/s00281-019-00775-y. Epub 2020 Feb 18.

Nance, C.L., Deniskin, R. et al. 2020. The Role of the Microbiome in Food Allergy: A Review. Children (Basel). 2020 May 26;7(6):50. doi: 10.3390/children7060050.

Sozener, Z.C. Ozturk, B.O. 2022. Epithelial barrier hypothesis: Effect of the external exposome on the microbiome and epithelial barriers in allergic disease. Allergy. 2022 May;77(5):1418-1449. doi: 10.1111/all.15240. Epub 2022 Feb 16.

Ali, A., Tan, H., Kaiko G.E. 2020. Role of the Intestinal Epithelium and Its Interaction With the Microbiota in Food Allergy. Front Immunol. 2020 Dec 7;11:604054. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.604054. eCollection 2020., Zugriff:

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