For those who are familiar with the GAPS diet, rebuilding the gut is of primary importance. After all, the gut isn't only involved in properly absorbing nutrients to keep us fit - it's the foundation for a strong nervous system and immunity as well. When the gut is in top form, food sensitivities and illnesses have a harder time taking root. Interestingly, research has shown that probiotics can also heal the gut to such a point that food intolerance and allergies disappear.
The power of probiotics
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride developed the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet in response to her son's diagnosis of autism. Through years of research, she discovered that avoiding certain foods (such as starches, grains, beans and most sugars) while rebuilding the gut with bone broth, protein and probiotics, lead to dramatic recoveries in her patients. Behavioral disorders, schizophrenia, ADHD, bipolar, depression, autism, food sensitivities and a host of other afflictions have been successfully treated with GAPS. Even multiple sclerosis responds well.
One particular area of interest (for the 7.8 million Americans who struggle with food intolerance and allergies) is that symptoms often vanish when the gut is properly populated with probiotics. Several studies have found that these beneficial microorganisms not only enhance the immune system but also reduce inflammation associated with allergic reactions.
One such study involves researchers in Finland who discovered that probiotics prevent permeability defects of the intestine, which reduces the absorption of allergy-causing antigens in the digestive tract. Infants who exhibited an allergy to cow's milk with atopic eczema were given whey formula either with or without the addition of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG probiotic. The team measured intestinal inflammation before and after the dietary intervention. At the end of the 1-month study, those who received the probiotic improved substantially, leading the researchers to this conclusion: "These results suggest that probiotic bacteria may promote endogenous barrier mechanisms in patients with atopic dermatitis and food allergy, and by alleviating intestinal inflammation, may act as a useful tool in the treatment of food allergy."
Likewise, research published in The Journal of Nutrition found a positive correlation between probiotics and reduced allergic response:
"At 10 and 20 [years] of age, children treated with E. coli suffered significantly fewer allergic diseases than the subjects in the control group. In a recent study, the efficacy of L. rhamnosus GG on at-risk infants was studied; children of allergic mothers have [approximately a] 50% risk of developing allergy. Pregnant allergic mothers were given L. rhamnosus GG or placebo from 2 to 4 [weeks] before the calculated date of delivery in a randomized double-blind trial. After delivery, the children received L. rhamnosus GG for 6 [months]. After 4 [years], 46% of the children in the placebo group had developed atopic eczema, whereas in the probiotics group this was 26%."
Protect and heal
It isn't only children who can benefit from probiotics; adults can mend the gut and lessen food sensitivities as well. Consuming an assortment of unpasteurized, fermented foods - including sauerkraut, kvass, miso, yogurt and kefir - is a great place to start. Focus on organic, fermented dairy products without additional sugars or thickeners. Better still, use raw milk varieties. For everything you ever wanted to know about making your own fermented vegetables, fruits, beverages and yogurt, visit Girl Meets Nourishment and learn more.