Optimal gastrointestinal (GI) health plays a vital role for robust immunity and overall wellness. Increasingly, research is linking imbalances in the gut to diseases that may not at first seem connected to gut function. Work by several researchers has linked intestinal permeability to chronic respiratory allergies/rhinitis,1 asthma,2 and eczema.3 Furthermore, intestinal dysbiosis is known to play a role in many autoimmune conditions and other chronic diseases,4 and reactions to foods often have symptoms that manifest far from the intestines.
One of the common consequences of food reactions can be headaches and migraines. Headache specialist Robert Sheeler, MD, an IFM certified practitioner, describes the many types of symptoms that can manifest in the presence of food reactions:
Eczema and the gut
As Dr. Sheeler states, food reactions can sometimes take the form of rashes or skin problems. On first glance, the connection between intestinal mucosal disruption and eczema may seem the most straightforward; skin microbiome5 and barrier integrity6 are known to be affected in patients with eczema, and the connection between the skin microbiome and the gut microbiome seems intuitive.
Indeed, evidence is accumulating that treatments aimed at restoring balance in the gut microbiome, such as ingesting probiotics, may reduce eczema,7 and that the use of prebiotics and probiotics early in life may play a role in eczema prevention.8,9 However, a Cochrane Review recently concluded that the probiotic strains that are currently available most likely make little or no difference in the improvement of patient-rated eczema symptoms.10 Another approach, removing inflammatory environmental triggers, has been found to be more effective.
Headaches, migraines, and food reactions
Individuals with chronic gastrointestinal symptoms are more likely to have headaches or migraines.11 The pro-inflammatory immune response associated with intestinal permeability likely plays a role in increasing headache and migraine frequency.11
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