Photo by Katherine Tallmadge
My Camellias Bloomed in February!
My Camellias Bloomed in February!

My clients who suffer from seasonal allergies were hit hard this year - and earlier than usual. The warm February temperatures caused Washington's flowering trees and shrubs to come out of their winter slumber gloriously. Our famed cherry trees and camellias are almost in full bloom. Even my hydrangeas' buds are peaking out. 

This beautiful display does not feel so beautiful for people with spring allergies. They often have symptoms, caused by the flowers' pollen, which impact their quality of life: lack of sleep, reduced productivity at work or school, emotional stress and embarrassment.... and the medications designed to improve those symptoms, depending on the person, may be no better, and cause dry mouth, sleeplessness, and drowsiness. A new study set out to test if certain strains of beneficial probiotic bacteria would reduce symptoms and improve quality of life during allergy season for its sufferers.  

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the first randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial - the gold standard of human research - testing this hypothesis, divided 178 allergy sufferers into two groups and tested them during spring allergy season for eight weeks. One group received the probiotic supplement*, the other received the placebo.

The study found the probiotic group experienced improved quality of life symptoms compared to the placebo group. That said, scientists are still working out which of the beneficial probiotic bacteria work best with individual allergens, and which probiotic bacteria will react positively with a person's specific microbiota (the 100 million bacterial organisms in your digestive tract), as each person's microbiota is different.

In the meantime, I believe eating foods which naturally contain beneficial probiotic bacteria, such as yogurt, is the best solution. I don't recommend counting on supplements because as of now, no probiotic supplements have passed the tests allowing them to make a health claim. 

Here's one of my favorite yogurt recipes developed by Georgetown resident and cookbook author, Najmieh Batmanglij, and found in my book, Diet Simple...

Najmieh Batmanglij's Yogurt and Spinach Dip

 

*(Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and Bifidobacterium longum MM-2 provided by Wakunaga of America Co Ltd)