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Gut bacteria could help control allergies, asthma

Sue Dunlevy, October 28, 2020 6:45PM News Corp Australia Network

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Yvonne Michaels, Giselle and Chloe make a big effort to eat anti-inflammatory foods to help control their asthma. Picture: Wayne Taylor media_cameraYvonne Michaels, Giselle and Chloe make a big effort to eat anti-inflammatory foods to help control their asthma. Picture: Wayne Taylor


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Controlling hay fever, asthma, eczema* and other allergies could be as simple as including more fibre in your diet.

New research has found gut bacteria interacts with immune* and inflammatory* cells that cause allergies, which affect one in three Australians.

Molecular nutritionist* from the University of Newcastle Dr Emma Beckett said changing your diet to dampen down* these inflammatory cells can help manage these conditions.

“I mean, obviously I’m not saying that this replaces taking your hay fever medication or using your asthma puffer,” she said.

“There is some really good evidence now from both human models, and mouse models, showing that doing things that keep the gut healthy reduces the inflammatory responses in other parts of the body including the nose, including the lungs and the skin.”

Close-up of girl using asthma inhaler at home media_cameraThough asthmatics should continue using their prescribed puffers, there is some good evidence that looking after your gut bacteria is beneficial for asthma, allergies, hay fever and eczema. Picture: iStock

Separate research published this year found people who have hay fever have a less diverse range of bacteria in their gut and an abundance of particular types of bacteria.

Another study found for every increase in the amount of inflammatory foods people consumed, like sugar, saturated fat* and refined carbohydrates*, the odds of them having asthma increased by 70 per cent.

Dr Beckett said to improve the diversity of gut bacteria people with allergies needed to eat more fibre, because good bacteria live off fibre.

Prebiotics* or supplements for good gut health were not necessary. Normal pantry foods including wholegrain breads, and fruits, vegetables, seeds and legumes* were better, she said.

Each type of good bacteria in your gut has its own preferred fibre so eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes, is essential.

She also had a warning especially for adults: “Don’t go doing things that are going to damage the gut bacteria like drinking too much alcohol (and) smoking.”

Asthma Australia chief Michele Goldman said more research was needed in understanding the influences of a gut microbiota* but her organisation encouraged a healthy diet.

Professor Mimi Tang from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute said that pregnant women who carried certain types of gut bacteria had children with a reduced risk of food allergies.

“There are studies to support its critical role in preventing allergies but understanding its role in reversing established disease is still under study,” she said.

Professor Tang said eating resistant starch gained from cooked rice that had been cooled down, artichokes, onions and green bananas helped feed the right type of gut bacteria.

Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia chief Maria Said noted cleaner childhood environments were reducing children’s’ exposure to bacteria, some of which could protect them from developing allergies.

Melbourne mum Yvonne Michael makes a big effort to feed her children Giselle, 10, and Chloe, 7, anti-inflammatory foods to help control their asthma.

“I give them a probiotic but also specific foods — almond honey and cinnamon to help reduce that inflammation, so, this is right up my alley.” she said.

Her daughters also eat legumes like lentils at least once a week as well as cucumber and tomatoes.

“I’ve seen them every single year have a need for medication less and less, I think there’s definitely a link.” she said.

When Giselle was a toddler the family had to get an ambulance to race her to hospital.

“It was really scary, so I thought that I need to change everything here,” she said.

Allergy Quick Fix media_cameraClare Elsworth and Isaac, who suffers anaphylactic reactions to dairy, nuts and sesame seeds. Picture: Tim Pascoe

Sydney mum Clare Elsworth said she was aware of the importance of gut bacteria in health and had sourced a dairy-free probiotic for her 10-year-old son Isaac who suffers anaphylactic reactions to dairy, nuts and sesame seeds.

A friend had helped her son through asthma by changing his diet, she said.

However, she believes there is a genetic cause for her son’s anaphylaxis which runs in her family and she has to be extremely careful about what he eats.

Isaac has never had a lunch order, takes his own food to birthday parties and has to be careful not to touch friends who have eaten foods he is allergic to.

In Australia, 3.1 million people have hay fever, 2.7 million have asthma and 800,000 people have eczema.


  • eczema: type of itchy, dry skin rash
  • immune: protected from getting something, such as a disease or virus
  • inflammatory: relating to or causing inflammation in the body
  • molecular nutritionist: study of the interaction of nutrients and the body at a molecular level
  • dampen down: reduce the severity of something
  • saturated fat: fats mostly from animal products such as meat and dairy
  • refined carbohydrates: such as white bread and lollies
  • prebiotics: fibre that feeds good gut bacteria
  • legumes: plant family that includes beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas
  • microbiota: community of microscopic organisms (such as bacteria) in or on plants or animals


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  1. What proportion of Australians has one of the health problems mentioned?
  2. What are some regular foods that Dr Beckett recommends?
  3. List three healthy things Chloe and Giselle eat.
  4. What can’t Isaac eat?
  5. How many people in Australia have asthma?


1. Good stuff/bad stuff
Throughout this news story there are examples given of things that people can consume to help with improving gut bacteria and easing allergies, as well as some things to avoid. Highlight all of these foods/substances and make a “Good stuff, bad stuff” poster. Make sure your poster has a title and a short caption so that readers will know what it is about.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education

2. Extension
Show your understanding of the glossary words from this story by incorporating all of them into an informative paragraph.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English

Aside from this, there is also this!
Brackets are a great literacy tool for adding aside comments, or comments that could be covered over and the sentence still makes sense. What’s inside the brackets is extra information.

They can be used for a variety of effects: to add more detail, to add humour, to connect with the reader etc.

My little brother, (the funniest kid I know) got himself into big trouble today.

Select 3 sentences from the article to add an aside comment to using brackets. Think about not only what you want to add to the sentence, but also what effect you are trying to create.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Would you change your diet if it helped control asthma, allergies or hay fever?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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