If you suffer seasonal allergies, this just might be the idea you’ve been waiting for. As spring approaches, you may find yourself dreading the sniffles, sneezes, and watery eyes that come with the season. The common remedies are OTC allergy meds such as Zyrtec, Claritin, and Allegra. If you are hit really hard, there’s a full line of prescription meds from Acrivastine to Veramyst. I have a better alternative! Please read all the way to the end.
tl/dr – Probiotics, especially Elixa, might be better than traditional allergy meds!
Traditional Allergy Medications
Allergy meds fall into basic categories, the most common being sedating or non-sedating antihistamines. Other common allergy meds are:
- Mast cell stabilizers
- Leukotriene inhibitors
- Nasal anticholinergics
- Anticholinergic nasal sprays
- Autoinjectable epinephrine
The nasal sprays are quite worrisome, you can actually become addicted to them! All of these Big Pharma allergy cures contain risks, as nearly all drugs do.
Probiotics are strains of bacteria that interact with humans in a beneficial way. They are often thought to work by creating colonies in the large intestine where most of our gut bacteria resides, crowding out “bad” microbes and creating chemicals, hormones, and vitamins that help us to stay healthy. While this certainly occurs, other benefits of probiotics are through actions not fully understood by science. For instance, bacteria that have been killed by heat are also considered probiotic even though it’s just the dead bodies of these bacteria we consume. The assumption is that our immune system sees these dead bacteria and becomes stronger. Similar theories exist for live bacteria.
While there are many different types of bacteria called probiotic, it’s been quite apparent for many decades that two types of bacteria stand head and shoulders above the rest: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Lacto and Bifido for Allergy Relief
Researchers from the University of Florida recently completed a study in which they treated sufferers of seasonal allergies with a probiotic containing lacto and bifido (35 test subjects) compared to a group that received a placebo (37 subjects). The probiotic group showed remarkable improvements in symptoms related to “sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy heads, and fever (to borrow a jingle from the ’80s).
The researchers presented the data like this:
In their conclusion, these pioneers in pollen and probiotics commented:
It is plausible that probiotics, as commensal organisms, may serve a greater role in preventing allergies earlier in life when the immune system is still developing. Our study demonstrates a potential benefit for healthy adults with self-identified seasonal allergies when the probiotic is administered starting at the greatest level of allergy symptoms. Prophylactic administration of the probiotic might potentiate the beneficial effects observed in this study.
The researchers messed up a little…they didn’t even get started with the study until allergy season was well underway, and still the probiotics worked! Furthermore, they tested numerous immune system markers, gut bacteria, and performed several other medical tests that demonstrate that these probiotics did, indeed, have an effect on the health, well-being, and immune function of the the probiotic test group.
A Little Free Advertising
I did some digging and made a few phone calls, it turns out that the probiotics used in the study were a commercial off-the-shelf Kyolic Kyo-Dophilus manufactured by Wakunaga of America Co., Ltd.
Kyo-Dophilus is supplied in capsules that contain 1.5 billion colony forming units (CFUs) broken down as:
- 1.2 billion CFU of Lacto gasseri
- 0.15 billion CFU of Bifido bifidum
- 0.15 billion CFU of Bifido longum
Now, I promise you this blog post was not intended to be a plug for my favorite brand of probiotics, Elixa, but that’s what it’s going to turn into…
Elixa Version 3
Karl Seddon of the UK has been doing his homework very well. He’s developing a brand of probiotics that he calls Elixa. In the many years I have been studying and writing about gut health, I was always very leery of ever recommending any specific brand of probiotics, but I always just said to make sure that whatever you buy contains lots and lots of lacto and bifido…particularly Bifidobacteria longum, often written as B. longum. B. longum, in my opinion, is the workhorse of the probiotic world, and many scientists agree. B. Longum is the “Champion Colonizer of the Infant Gut.” My other all-time favorite probiotic is Lactobacillus plantarum (L. plantarum). This is bacteria is the magic behind sauerkraut and kimchi.
I would not consider recommending a probiotic that did not contain both these species of bacteria. Imagine my surprise when I saw Elixa’s new blend, Version 3 which contains:
- Lactobacillus Plantarum
- Lactobacillus Rhamnosus
- Bifidobacterium Bifidum
- Bifidobacterium Lactis
- Bifidobacterium Longum
- Bifidobacterium Infantis
- Bifidobacterium Breve
When you buy Elixa, you get six sachets, each containing a day’s worth of probiotics. Each sachet contains 10 pills. Karl recommends taking 10 pills every day for six days to help restore gut function after illness or antibiotics. I cannot argue with that logic, and I’ve given similar advice long before Elixa was available.
Comparing Kyo-Dophilus and Elixa
Price-wise, Kyo-Dophilus seems cheaper. You get 360 capsules for $45. Compared to Elixa at $39.95 for 60 capsule (a 6-day supply). But here’s the kicker: Each capsule of Elixa contains 50 billion CFU’s of probiotics whereas Kyo-Dophilus capsules contain 1.5 billion. You’d need 33 capsules of Kyo-Dophilus to match one capsule of Elixa!
For anyone suffering seasonal allergies, I’d like to offer a challenge. Instead of spending your money on Flonase and Zyrtec, buy a bottle of Kyo-Dophilus and/or Elixa and see how it effects your allergies.
To make it fair…and to replicate the study design of the probiotic/allergy research from the University of Florida, I’d suggest using two capsules per day of Kyo-Dophilus and one capsule per day of Elixa. This means a six-day supply of Elixa (60 capsules) will last 60 days. A big bottle of Kyo-Dophilus (360 capsules) would last 180 days. But allergy season generally only lasts a month at best, so you’re looking at about $40 for each challenge. To summarize:
I suspect that Elixa will work better since taking one capsules of Elixa per day is equivalent to taking 33 capsules of Kyo-Dophilus (are you bean counters catching on yet?). For those taking Elixa, feel free actually to take as many capsules per day, up to the full 10, as you like.
I’ll let you know how it works, as a long-time sufferer of birch pollen allergy, I’ll be using up my Elixa during the May/June birch pollen season.
If anyone else tries, I’d love to hear your results.
I’ve discussed this “off-label” challenge with Karl Seddon, CEO and founder of Elixa, and he’s excited to see the results.