By Dr. Cliff Han
Many people who suffer from indoor allergies tend to suffer the worst in the winter months because they are stuck inside during the cold weather. However, the mistake many allergy sufferers make is believing that they have to live with their allergies and that there is no identifiable cause. Recent studies have shown that there may be a root cause for many patients’ allergies: oral probiotic deficiency.
What are oral probiotics?
Probiotics are bacteria that live within the human body to keep its systems healthy. In other words, these are “good” bacteria, often essential for the proper functioning of the body and integral in managing “bad” bacteria in the immune system. While probiotics are generally primarily associated with the gut, where they aid in the digestive process, several other body systems rely on probiotics for their overall health.
One system that contains several probiotics, yet is often overlooked, is the respiratory system. The mouth and airway are critical entry points for the body, as breathing and consuming food and water are essential bodily functions. Additionally, the airway is effectively surrounded by the immune system. The tonsils stretch from the nose and mouth to the bronchi and are critical to the body’s immune response.
However, it is important to realize that there is a significant difference between gut probiotics and oral probiotics. Methods used to increase probiotic levels in the gut may not be effective in nurturing oral probiotics because they live in entirely different environments in the body. Oral probiotics must be kept at a healthy level because they can prevent the immune system from overreacting to environmental allergens that do not harm the body.
There are two main types of oral probiotics: Streptococcus and Veillonella. Streptococcus attaches itself to surfaces, and Veillonella metabolizes the cavity-inducing lactic acid from the Streptococcus and converts it into short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). These SCFAs then have an essential role in reducing inflammation throughout the body, which can help alleviate the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, also known as common allergies.
Studies have shown a connection between healthy levels of oral probiotics and decreased rates of allergic rhinitis. Oral probiotics are considered a “negative trigger” for the immune system, meaning that the presence of the bacteria and their products suppresses the immune system from an excessive response to a substance flagged by the body as harmful but has no harmful effects.
What is oral probiotic deficiency (OPD)?
When patients do not have healthy levels of oral probiotics, they suffer from oral probiotic deficiency (OPD). Although levels of oral probiotics will naturally fluctuate depending on several factors, including the season and oral hygiene habits, allergic rhinitis begins to occur when they reach excessively low levels.
Oral probiotic deficiency syndrome (OPDS) is what the medical community has begun to call the range of conditions caused by oral probiotic deficiency. These include common allergic rhinitis and more severe auto-immune disorders that improper levels of oral probiotics can cause.
OPD can be caused by several factors, from intensified oral hygiene to antibiotic usage and illness. Although oral hygiene is essential to keeping a healthy mouth, excessive oral hygiene is not necessary to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Patients would be better served only to conduct the minimum level of oral hygiene required to keep their teeth and gums healthy — such as brushing their teeth once per day to remove plaque — so that oral probiotics may continue to thrive.
Additionally, when a patient gets sick, the immune system’s natural response to illness — a fever — tends to kill off good bacteria alongside the bad ones. Furthermore, when a patient is prescribed antibiotics to help them recover from illness, these medicines have effects that disrupt probiotics along with harmful bacteria. As such, patients must restore their oral probiotics after an illness.
Solving oral probiotic deficiency
The solution to oral probiotic deficiency is using a prebiotic mix containing sugars and arginine, which helps to encourage the growth of probiotics in the mouth. When this mixture is administered orally after a patient’s regular oral hygiene routine over about a week, oral probiotics will return to an average, healthy level, and patients will begin to see relief from their allergies. Generally, after the initial use of this prebiotic mixture, patients only need to use it for maintenance every few months or after illness occurs.
For patients suffering from oral probiotic deficiency-related allergies, treatments are available to help prevent any severe reactions. Most allergy medicines on the market tend to relieve the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, though the treatment of oral probiotic deficiency has the potential not only to help with symptoms and discomfort but also to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Dr. Cliff Han, founder of AllerPops, was a biologist for 28 years and a former medical doctor. He participated in the Human Genome Project and authored more than 300 peer-reviewed publications. He is a scientist with the heart of an entrepreneur.