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A Variety of Probiotic Bacteria May Be Essential for Preventing Allergies

Researchers have long theorized that lack of early exposure to certain microorganisms and parasites in childhood is the reason for the rise in childhood allergies, but they've had a hard time proving their theory. A recent study from researchers at Linkoping University in Sweden aimed to show that probiotics and diversity in the gut are essential for preventing the development of allergies and autoimmune diseases.

The findings were published online ahead of print on December 6, 2011 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

The study included 40 infants, half of whom had atopic eczema and allergic antibodies to foods and half of whom showed no signs of allergy. The researchers took stools samples from the two groups at 1 week, 1 month, and 12 months of age. They analyzed the stool samples using genetic sequencing to determine which bacteria were present.

They found that the amount of exposure to a diverse variety of microorganisms has an effect on allergy development. The babies who did not have allergies had higher levels of a variety of gut microflora at one month old than the babies with allergies.

The researchers also found differences in the effects provided by different types of bacteria. Proteobacteria, which protects against allergies, were more abundant in the babies without allergies at 12 months of age. Bacteroides were found to help with inflammation. However, Bifidobacteria, which is often added to dairy products, did not appear to have a protective effect.

While most commonly linked with improved gut health, probiotics have also been shown to have help with weight loss, strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

As this study shows, a diversity of probiotic bacteria is key for good health. Good dietary sources of probiotics include yogurt, milk and sauerkraut. A high quality supplement is also great source . If you choose this option, be sure it is packaged to block light, air and moisture which can easily kill probiotics.

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