A new review of research suggests the tiny bugs may help change the balance of bacteria in our guts in a way that prevents immune systems from freaking out in response to pollen and other allergens. The International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology published the study, which was noted on livescience.com.
For the study, researchers reviewed data from 23 randomized trials that included 1,900 people. In the majority of the studies (17 of 23), people with seasonal allergies who took probiotic supps or ate foods with probiotics showed improvement in at least one outcome measurement, like improved allergy symptoms or general quality of life compared to people with allergies who took a placebo. Six of the studies found that the bugs had no benefit for people with hay fever. The studies used different strains of bacteria, different dosages and different formulations over varying lengths of time, however, so the authors could not make any formal recommendations about whether to stock up on probiotics when flowers (and noses) start blooming in the spring.
They concluded: “Probiotics may be beneficial in improving symptoms and quality of life in patients with allergic rhinitis; however, current evidence remains limited due to study heterogeneity and variable outcome measures. Additional high-quality studies are needed to establish appropriate recommendations.”
Research supporting health claims for probiotics continues to grow. The probiotic market today is worth double-digit billions and promises continued rapid growth. Although the competition is deep, consumer demand is skyrocketing. According to SPINS data, probiotic supplement sales for 2014 totaled $7.1 billion in conventional outlets, including Walmart, and $321 million in natural supermarkets not including Whole Foods Market. In both channels, probiotic supplement sales are double the second-ranked ingredients.