Food allergies

Food allergies are a constantly progressing phenomenon and remain difficult to treat. However, new therapies are coming to light with the discovery of the involvement of the microbiota. 

Created 13 October 2020
Updated 08 November 2021

About this article

Created 13 October 2020
Updated 08 November 2021

Food allergies are a dysfunction in the immune system, which reacts abnormally immediately after ingestion of a specific food. The food, normally harmless to the body, is then called an “allergen.” These allergies affect 3% of the general population and 5% of children.

Many foods to blame

Products likely to trigger a food allergy are numerous and vary according to age and the person’s food habits. Governmental sites regularly update the list of identified allergens. Children are more sensitive to eggs, peanuts, and cow’s milk, whereas adults are more sensitive to crustaceans and mollusks, certain fruits, and soy.
In contrast with food intolerances, food allergy symptoms appear violently: they can be digestive, respiratory, or cutaneous. Angioedema, asthma attacks, and anaphylactic shock are life-threatening emergencies.

Imbalance in the microbiota

It has not yet been explained why certain foods cause an inappropriate immune reaction. Studies very quickly established a connection between these allergic phenomena and an alteration in the microbiota: allergic patients all have a different microbiota compared to healthy individuals. Observations of dysbiosis in affected people have shown that certain bacteria are responsible for the appearance of hypersensitivity to dietary proteins.

Probiotics as prevention?

Although the primary treatment for food allergies is removing the offending food, numerous studies have suggested that modulating the microbiota with probiotics and prebiotics may prevent the development of allergies.