The number of people with food allergies keeps rising, and researchers in Australia believe it may be tied to a lack of fiber in the diet. It has to do with how fiber-rich foods impact our gut bacteria to trigger changes in the immune system—and they believe eating more fiber may help prevent food allergies and possibly reverse existing allergies.
How does it work? Dietary fiber—found in plant foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds—feeds the beneficial probiotic bacteria in the gut, which is where at least 70% of the immune system is found. This, in turn, helps the immune system respond appropriately to the foods we eat and improves the body’s resistance to allergies.
For the study, researchers used two groups of mice. The mice in the first group had an artificially-induced peanut allergy before being fed a fiber-rich diet. The fiber helped bolster their supply of beneficial gut bacteria and build a strong microbiome, and those microbes were then transferred to a group of germ-free mice. What happened next? The germ-free mice, even though they hadn’t consumed any fiber, were protected against the peanut allergy.
When we consider that the number of children with peanut allergies in the United States has tripled in recent years, the findings offer promising news. Study authors point out that getting enough vitamin A was also important; not surprisingly, vitamin A is found in fiber-rich fruits and vegetables.
Researchers also expressed concern that eating too many ultra-processed foods and too little fiber may be at the root of the rising allergy problem in America and worldwide. They believe consuming more fiber, as well as supplementation with probiotics and prebiotics, may one day help with allergy treatment and prevention.