Published: April 14, 2016
The prevalence of probiotic usage in the United States has nearly tripled between 2006 and 2012, in part due to new studies that demonstrate their effectiveness and potential overall health benefits.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are intended to be good for your health, especially your digestive system. They typically keep the normal microflora of your digestive system in balance. The normal human digestive system has approximately 400 types of bacteria.
Probiotics are found naturally in your body but can also be in foods, such as yogurt, or in supplements. There are two main types of probiotics: Lactobacillius and Bifidobacterium. Lactobacillus is more common and can be found in dairy products and fermented foods. Bifidobacterium can also be found in some dairy products and is mainly used to treat irritable bowel syndrome.
A recent study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, studied the effects of Bifidobacterium longum on food allergy symptoms using a mouse model.
A food allergy is caused by the immune system’s abnormal response to a food that it believes to be harmful. Allergic reactions to food requiring a hospitalization have increased dramatically in the last few years. Some recent studies have suggested that probiotics can suppress the immune system’s response to food allergens.
This current study showed that orally administrating B. longum KACC 91563 diminished the severity of the reaction to a food allergen in mice.
In the mouse, B. longum produced extracellular vesicles (EVs) containing lipids, DNA and proteins and short-chain fatty acids. The short-chain fatty acids protect the host cells from other infections by enhancing the host’s cells defense system. The EVs are delivered to the host’s immune cells, specifically the mast cells; mast cells are a type of white blood cell.
One family of the proteins found in the EVs are extracellular solute-binding proteins (ESBP) which affect the host’s mast cells and induce apoptosis, programmed cell death, of the mast cells. The mast cells internalize the EVs using bone marrow-derived mast cells and a specific receptor-mediated pathway.
ESBP effectively induces cell death, lessening the quantity of mast cells in the intestine membrane, causing a decrease in the severity of food allergy symptoms. B. longum is able to suppress the symptoms of food allergens by selectively affecting mast cells, which are the major effector cells in an allergic response.
With these new findings, scientists hope to further research the use of ESBPs, which contain the components that alleviate the allergic reaction symptoms, to treat food allergies. B. longum itself does not alleviate the symptoms, but it is its release of the ESBPs. Although further research is necessary, currently there are few options for food allergy treatment, making this research insightful for future treatment options.
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