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Food allergies: Pandemic?

Well Being| Views: 2572

When eating becomes hazardous 

Food allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to a normally harmless protein in a food. The immune system of persons afflicted by this condition treats certain proteins as harmful agents against which it must defend itself. The allergic reaction can be immediate or take time to manifest. Symptoms can vary in severity, ranging from difficulty breathing or swallowing to respiratory arrest. Some people may suffer from low blood pressure, fast heart rate, or even faint. In most cases, the manifestations are dermatological: urticaria, rash, redness and itching of the skin. The allergy can also cause cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and sometimes dizziness1.

According to current Canadian data up to 5% to 6% of young children are affected by food allergy.1 Fortunately, the allergy will disappear for the majority once they are of school-age. The main allergenic ingredients – nicknamed priority food allergens – are soybeans, milk, nuts, peanuts (which are legumes), eggs, fish and seafood, wheat and triticale, sulphites (used as preservatives to maintain food), sesame seeds and mustard seeds.1

Probiotics in all of this?!

At present, despite scientific and medical breakthroughs, there is no cure for food allergies. The only way to prevent the allergic reaction is to avoid as much as possible the allergenic food proteins1. In emergency cases, the EpiPen© auto-injector can save lives1. Research has determined that the intestinal flora of people with allergies is disrupted, which has led scientists to believe that a microbial correction could improve the immune status2. Also, exposure to germs at a young age is associated with a reduction in the incidence of allergies. In fact, good bacteria and their metabolites seem essential for normal immune development3. This being said, probiotic supplementation can help prevent food allergies, as long as the supplement is allergen-free (which is the case for the Probaclac formulas, they are gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, sesame-free, egg-free, fish-free, crustacean-free, wheat-free and sulphite-free*). Be precautious: many probiotics on the market are grown from dairy products and have Lactobacillus casei as the main strain … an obviously contraindicated bacterial “cocktail” in cases of allergy to milk and/or lactose intolerance4.

*Medic contains traces of soy and Chewable can contain traces of dairy protein *

Scientists have come to discover that it is possible to decrease the risk that newborns have allergies by supplementing the mother-to-be during her pregnancy5. The World Allergy Organization (WAO) takes a stand on this subject and suggests to pregnant women having an allergic genetic predisposition to take probiotics during their pregnancy6. They also recommend to breastfeeding women to opt for a probiotic if their baby is at risk of developing an allergy6. Finally, they advise to directly supplement children who may develop an allergy6. * Please note that the Chewable tablets for children may contain traces of dairy proteins, required in minute quantities for this type of encapsulation process. On the plate and beyond supplementation, pre- and probiotics can feed both the good bacteria in your intestine and support your immune system. At the grocery store, stock up on dairy-free yogurts such as rice, coconut or soy (unless allergy / intolerance), kefir (fermented yogurt), kombucha (fermented tea), sauerkraut and kimchi (fermented cabbage), vegetables and fruit in good quantities, legumes of all kinds and herbs (such as garlic, leeks and onion) to put the chances on your side and flout allergies4.

Flash quiz to see who the experts are!

True or False? Priority food allergens can cause severe reactions that constitute a health hazard, such as anaphylactic shock and risk of death.

True. The immune system of people with allergies reacts disproportionately to an allergenic protein or an irritant. Proper labeling of foods with a complete list of ingredients and injection of epinephrine (which is actually adrenaline) are essential tools for public health.

True or False? The implementation of an allergen-free diet by the mother during pregnancy and breastfeeding reduces the chances of allergies in infants.

False. Such a diet has no impact even if there is a family history of food allergies. On the other hand, we note that children who are exclusively breastfed in the first 4 to 6 months of life would be less allergic.


1Santé Canada [Site web]. Consulté le 21 janvier 2018. https://www.canada.ca/ fr/sante-canada/services/aliments-nutrition/salubrite-aliments/allergies- alimentaires- intolerances-alimentaires/allergies-alimentaires.html

2West CE, Jenmalm MC, Kozyrskyj AL et Prescott SL. Probiotics for treatment and primary prevention of allergic diseases and asthma : looking back and moving forward.Expert Rev Clin Immunol. 2016 ; 12 (6) : 625-639.

3Gern JE. Promising candidates for allergy prevention. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2015 ; 136 (1) : 23-28.

4Allergie and Co [Site web]. Consulté le 22 janvier 2018. http:// www.allergieandco.com/probiotiques-sans-lait-sans-gluten/

5West CE. Probiotics for allergy prevention. Benef Microbes. 2016 ; 7 (2): 171-179.

6Fiocchi A, Pawankar R, Cuello-Garcia C, Ahn K, Al-Hammadi S. et al. World Allergy Organization – McMaster University Guidelines for Allergic Disease Prevention (GLAD-P) : Probiotics. World Allergy Organ. 2015 ; 8 (1) : 4.