Probiotics and food allergy
1 Department of Pediatrics, Foundation IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy
2 Department of Pediatrics, Second University of Naples, Naples, Italy
3 Department of Medical and Pediatric Science, University of Catania, Catania, Italy
Italian Journal of Pediatrics 2013, 39:47 doi:10.1186/1824-7288-39-47Published: 29 July 2013
The exact prevalence of food allergy in the general population is unknown, but almost 12% of pediatric population refers a suspicion of food allergy. IgE mediated reactions to food are actually the best-characterized types of allergy, and they might be particularly harmful especially in children. According to the “hygiene hypothesis” low or no exposure to exogenous antigens in early life may increase the risk of allergic diseases by both delaying the development of the immune tolerance and limiting the Th2/Th1 switch. The critical role of intestinal microbiota in the development of immune tolerance improved recently the interest on probiotics, prebiotics, antioxidants, polyunsaturated fatty acid, folate and vitamins, which seem to have positive effects on the immune functions.
Probiotics consist in bacteria or yeast, able to re-colonize and restore microflora symbiosis in intestinal tract. One of the most important characteristics of probiotics is their safety for human health. Thanks to their ability to adhere to intestinal epithelial cells and to modulate and stabilize the composition of gut microflora, probiotics bacteria may play an important role in the regulation of intestinal and systemic immunity. They actually seem capable of restoring the intestinal microbic equilibrium and modulating the activation of immune cells.
Several studies have been recently conducted on the role of probiotics in preventing and/or treating allergic disorders, but the results are often quite contradictory, probably because of the heterogeneity of strains, the duration of therapy and the doses administered to patients. Therefore, new studies are needed in order to clarify the functions and the utility of probiotics in food allergies and ion other types of allergic disorders.