Can Probiotics Help Your Food Allergies?

Probiotics may provide relief for eczema, celiac disease, and other allergies

Woman drinking a probiotic drink
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Probiotics have been touted as having a number of health benefits. One of those is that they might be able to help with food allergies. If you've heard these claims and deal with allergies, you're likely wondering if its true. Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple one.

The effects that probiotics may have on reducing the symptoms of allergies—whether they're from food, the environment, or other causes—is undetermined.

Researchers are looking into this issue, though the evidence is still not there to prove whether they can help or not.

What Are Probiotics?

Before we can delve into the research, it's best to have an understanding of what probiotics are. This helps us explain how they might help people with food allergies.

Probiotics contain types of "good" bacteria that are normally found in the large intestine of healthy people. There are numerous different types of "good" bacteria and our bodies contain hundreds of strains. Only a few are included in the supplements which are sold as probiotics.

We use particular strains of these "good" bacteria to culture milk to make yogurt, kefir, and other fermented dairy products. When you see yogurt advertised with "live, active cultures," that's referring to live bacteria of the same sort found in probiotics.

The types of bacteria that are especially well-studied for their benefits as probiotics include Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum.

You'll find these in many over-the-counter probiotic products.

Disappointing Results So Far

The hygiene hypothesis is one reason researchers have begun to conduct research with probiotics. This is the idea that the clean environments Westerners live in have prevented our bodies from being colonized with the healthy bacteria we need to develop a healthy immune system.

The theory is that this is why more people experience allergic reactions than in previous generations.

Thus far, however, supplements of probiotics have shown little effect on preventing most allergies. Research and trials have shown only mixed or unclear effects on preventing food allergies, asthma, and environmental allergies.

As research continues, there is evidence that shows promise for some people. Yet, even with these early indications, researchers cannot provide definitive advice to anyone dealing with allergies.

Allergies in Babies

Several studies have shown that infants in groups supplemented with probiotics were significantly less likely to develop eczema later in life. This is an allergic condition that is often associated with other types of allergies. More studies are needed to determine whether this encouraging effect will continue to hold true.

According to guidelines released by the World Allergy Organization (WAO), probiotics may be beneficial for some pregnant and breastfeeding women. The advice pertains particularly to women whose babies are at a higher risk for developing allergies with the intent of preventing those allergies.

However, even these guidelines come with the caveat that, "All recommendations are conditional and supported by very low-quality evidence." Furthermore, there is also some concern that probiotics may actually make some infants more sensitive to allergies.

Therefore, more research is needed in this area.

Celiac Disease

People with celiac disease may also be able to find some relief from their symptoms through the use of probiotics. A number of studies are looking into the association of gut microbiota and allergic reactions to gluten. Though the evidence is preliminary and not definitive, it does point to the possibility that introducing good bacteria may reduce symptoms even more than gluten-free diet alone.


One other area of current study is prebiotics. These are non-digestible sugars that encourage the growth of favorable bacteria within the body.

To date, though, there has not been conclusive results on whether prebiotics can prevent food allergies.


Probiotics are not considered especially risky for most people. However, because probiotics may be cultured from dairy products, some probiotic preparations may be risky for people with dairy allergies.

Additionally, it's important to be aware of the fact that probiotics are dietary supplements and are not subject to approval by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Probiotics are also not standardized and each strain can have different effects on your body. For these reasons, it's best to have a good understanding of probiotics before taking them.

If you have any questions, talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team. Your allergist or pediatrician can also advise you about the risks and benefits of probiotics for your child.

A Word From Verywell

There is no conclusive evidence that probiotics can improve your allergy symptoms. At best, they may be beneficial in addition to your standard allergy treatments. Since they are unregulated and vary greatly, it's a good idea to consult your allergist or physician as to whether any probiotic may be beneficial for you.


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