Volume 3 Issue 1

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P robiotics aren't just for gastrointestinal diseases. Researchers are finding a multitude of uses for probiotics that go far beyond helping your digestive system. The list of probiotics' beneficial effects now includes, among other things: * Alleviating allergy symptoms * Improving oral and sinus health * Relieving yeast infections * Preventing problems during pregnancy In fact, researchers are investigating how probiotics may help protect you against such biggies as cancer and cardiovascular disease. In this article, I explore the role of probiotics in treating some quite common ailments, from allergies to tooth decay. Understanding Allergies Allergies are "altered reactions," derived from the Greek words allos (meaning different or changed) and ergos (meaning work or action). In medical terms, an allergy is your immune system's exaggerated response to contact with a "foreign" substance, but it's usually a misguided reaction. Your body perceives an allergen — an allergy-producing substance — as dangerous when it's really not. Most of the time, your body recognizes allergens as harmless and ignores them. But if you're allergic to a particular substance — cat hair, pollen, or mold, for instance — your body snaps to attention, producing an overblown response. Fifty million people in the United States have allergies, with nasal allergies or hay fever, asthma, allergic eczema, and hives being the most common conditions. Although it's unclear what causes allergic reactions, the hygiene hypothesis is most widely accepted theory in the medical field. The idea is that increasing use of sanitizers means people aren't exposed to microbes to the extent they were decades ago. Childhood exposure to microbes is beneficial in the long term because it lessens the likelihood you'll develop allergies. In fact, if you have older siblings, you have a reduced chance of developing allergies because you're exposed to more viral infections, which boosts your immune system. There are more allergies in developed countries than in developing countries — likely because people in less developed areas are exposed to more bacteria and viruses and therefore develop a tolerance for them. Babies born by C-section take a long time to achieve bacterial colonization compared to babies born by vaginal delivery, because they don't swallow vaginal bacteria. Some studies point to increased allergies in children born by C-section. In the following sections, we look at three areas in which probiotics may help treat or prevent some allergic reactions: hay fever and asthma, eczema, and food allergies. Combating Food Allergies Food allergies occur when the immune system attacks a food protein. Any food can cause an Applying Probiotics to Other Health Issues Page 34| Abby's Magazine -

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