For millions globally, allergies present a significant health concern. Allergies, responses triggered by specific substances known as allergens, manifest in various ways, from minor inconveniences like a rash or sneezing to potentially life-threatening situations such as anaphylactic shock (1). As allergies continue to affect an increasing number of individuals, various alternative solutions, including dietary modifications, are being explored. Among these, veganism is garnering significant attention.
Defined by the total exclusion of animal products, a vegan diet encompasses plant-based foods: fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. This blog post delves into how adopting a vegan diet may help alleviate the symptoms of allergies, according to current scientific research.
The Link to Gut Microbiota
Gut microbiota, the community of microorganisms inhabiting our digestive tracts, plays a pivotal role in human health. Over the past decade, research has uncovered a strong relationship between gut microbiota and the immune system, including its role in allergic responses (2).
Plant-based diets, including vegan ones, are high in dietary fiber and polyphenols that serve as nourishment for beneficial gut bacteria. These diets can enhance gut microbiota health, thereby improving immune function and potentially reducing allergic reactions (3). In contrast, Western-style diets rich in saturated fats and refined sugars have been shown to adversely impact gut microbiota and immune responses (2).
The Anti-inflammatory Benefits of Plant Foods
Another way a vegan diet may alleviate allergy symptoms is through its anti-inflammatory properties. Many plant-based foods are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that can help soothe the overactive responses of the immune system typical in allergic reactions.
Specifically, fruits and vegetables are rich in flavonoids, a type of phytochemical known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Flavonoids may inhibit the release of histamine, a compound involved in allergic responses, thus potentially easing allergy symptoms (4).
Moreover, a randomized controlled trial discovered that a vegan diet significantly lowered C-reactive protein levels, an indicator of systemic inflammation, suggesting a strong anti-inflammatory effect (5).
Vegan Diets and Specific Allergies
A vegan diet may particularly benefit those suffering from certain food and environmental allergies. For instance, individuals allergic to specific animal proteins like casein in dairy or albumin in eggs could see significant benefits from a vegan diet that inherently eliminates these allergens (6).
For those with environmental allergies, such as pollen, a vegan diet may also be helpful. Foods rich in beta-carotene (found in many vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes) and vitamin C (found in fruits like oranges and strawberries) can strengthen the immune system and may alleviate allergy symptoms (6).
The Impact of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids, prevalent in certain plant foods like flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, have been recognized for their potential to ease allergy symptoms. These fatty acids can reduce inflammation and help regulate immune responses, including allergies (7). Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that a higher intake of omega 3 fatty acids is linked to a lower risk of hay fever (8).
Though the potential of a vegan diet in alleviating allergy symptoms requires further exploration, the current evidence supporting the role of gut microbiota, anti-inflammatory properties of plant foods, the elimination of specific food allergens, and the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids is encouraging.
Before adopting any significant dietary changes, consult with a healthcare professional to ensure it meets your specific nutritional requirements and health objectives. It is hoped that future research will offer more actionable insights for both individuals afflicted with allergies and healthcare practitioners seeking to provide evidence-based dietary advice.
Note: This blog post is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have allergies, always consult with a healthcare provider before making any dietary modifications.
1.Pawankar R, Canonica GW, Holgate ST, Lockey RF. WAO White Book on Allergy: Update 2013. World Allergy Organization, 2013. Link
2.Huang YJ, Marsland BJ, Bunyavanich S, O’Mahony L, Leung DY, Muraro A, Fleisher TA. The microbiome in allergic disease: Current understanding and future opportunities—2017 PRACTALL document of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2017 Apr 1;139(4):1099-110. Link
3.Tomova A, Bukovsky I, Rembert E, Yonas W, Alwarith J, Barnard ND, Kahleova H. The effects of vegetarian and vegan diets on gut microbiota. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2019 Apr 17;6:47. Link
4.Kawai M, Hirano T, Higa S, Arimitsu J, Maruta M, Kuwahara Y, Ohkawara T, Hagihara K, Yamadori T, Shima Y, Ogata A. Flavonoids and related compounds as anti-allergic substances. Allergology International. 2007 Jun 1;56(2):113-23. Link
5.Haghighatdoost F, Bellissimo N, Totosy de Zepetnek JO, Rouhani MH. Association of vegetarian diet with inflammatory biomarkers: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Public Health Nutrition. 2017 Oct;20(15):2713-21. Link
6.Gupta RS, Springston EE, Warrier MR, Smith B, Kumar R, Pongracic J, Holl JL. The prevalence, severity, and distribution of childhood food allergy in the United States. Pediatrics. 2011 Jul 1;128(1):e9-17. Link
7.Wall R, Ross RP, Fitzgerald GF, Stanton C. Fatty acids from fish: the anti-inflammatory potential of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Nutrition Reviews. 2010 May 1;68(5):280-9. Link
8.Oien T, Storrø O, Johnsen R. Do early intake of fish and fish oil protect against eczema and doctor-diagnosed asthma at 2 years of age? A cohort study. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. 2010 Feb 1;64(2):124-9. Link
Keywords: Vegan Diet, Omega 3, Allergy, Plant-Based, Anti-inflammatory