advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Do the Bugs in Your Belly Cause Allergies?

What is the relationship, if any, between allergies and digestive health? I hear that it is related to the "microbiome," but I'm not sure what that is. Can you explain?

A
Answer (Published 6/20/2014)

The microbiome is the collective term for the 100 trillion microbes - bacteria, viruses, and fungi - that live upon and (mostly) within us. This roughly two-pound community outnumbers our human cells (that is, the ones with our unique DNA profile) 10-fold. In addition, the number of genes in all of those microbes is roughly 100 times greater than the number in our human cells.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Allergies - Do you suffer from allergies or asthma? Your diet may be negatively impacting your symptoms - join the Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging online plan for access to hundreds of recipes and information that can help lessen the discomforts of allergies. Join today and get 14 days free!

Based on what we currently know, our individual microbiomes are very different from one another, and it appears our own unique balance of organisms influences our health. Recent research suggests, however, that our microbiomes in general are becoming increasingly unbalanced for a number of reasons, including diets heavy in processed foods, increased exposure to antibiotics via both medical treatments and residues in foods from animals treated with the drugs, and the increased incidence of C-section deliveries, which deprives infants of exposure to vital microorganisms in the birth canal that "seed" the gut with beneficial bugs.

Deleterious changes in the microbiome may underlie the increased incidence of allergy as well as other conditions, including gluten sensitivity, autoimmunity, and autism.

In a study published in 2011 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Danish researchers showed that the risk of allergies is higher than normal in children with a less diverse microbiome. The team looked at fecal bacteria in 253 one-month old infants and followed up when the babies were one year old and also did clinical assessments every six months beginning at six months of age until age six. They also tested each child's levels of IgE, antibodies associated with immune and allergic diseases in order to document allergy risk.

This advancing knowledge hasn't yet yielded any new allergy treatments, but we do have some insights into how diet can support a healthy microbiome:

  • Emphasize unprocessed foods that are low in sugar and refined starches. 
  • Increase consumption of fermented foods (such as natural pickles, raw sauerkraut and kimchi, miso, and plain yogurt with active cultures).
  • Take probiotic supplements, which may help repopulate a depleted microbial community, although more research is needed.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Sources:
Hans Bisgaard et al, "Reduced diversity of the intestinal microbiota during infancy is associated with increased risk of allergic disease at school age," Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, September 2011;128(3):646-52.e1-5.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here