Beta glucans and polyphenols fight allergies

Dr Paul Clayton’s Health Newsletter March 2014

Spring is not yet sprung …
… but it’s coming, and so are the allergies, and so are new ‘solutions’ for those allergies.

One of the latest is Allergease, a lozenge developed and launched by the American company Medicus Research. Allergease contains a hodge-podge of herbal ingredients including eyebright, nettle and elderflower. ‘I started thinking’, said company director Jay Udani, ‘what could we do besides the standard therapies? I started doing concoctions in my kitchen. Then we took it to a next level and hired a PhD chemist and an herbalist.’

Wot – no alchemist? This is a decidedly 19th century approach but, always interested in novel therapies, I searched for the study which was done to support this product. The results were submitted in poster form at the recent Scripps Annual Conference on Supplements in San Diego and are not yet accessible, so I cannot comment; but frankly, this looks like nonsense, as do most of the other common allergy supplements.
Zinc, vitamin C, apple cider vinegar, local honey, salt inhalation – all testimony to human gullibility and greed. The US showman P T Barnum, whom I rather like, famously said, ‘Every crowd has a silver lining’. [Less familiarly, he also said ‘Science is the pursuit of pure truth, and the systematizing of it.’]

Asthma and allergic dermatitis, rhinitis and conjunctivitis are at all-time highs. There is an emerging consensus that this is due to dietary changes, and in particular the removal from our diet of a handful of constituents:

• the immuno-modulatory 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans
• the anti-inflammatory polyphenols
• omega 3 fatty acids

What happens if you put these back into your diet? The beta glucans on their own reduce allergy symptom scores by about 50% (Talbott et al ’13), and the polyphenol quercitin (derived from onions and apples) has a range of complementary and equally potent anti-allergy effects (Shishehbor et al ’10, Cruz et al ’12, Weng et al ’12).

The beta glucan/quercitin combo has not yet been through a clinical trial, but in my experience most allergy sufferers who take the two together are able to abandon their medications within a week.

Cruz EA, et al. Kalanchoe pinnata inhibitscelland prevents allergic airway disease. Phytomedicine. (2012).19(2):115-21.

Shishehbor F,et al. Quercetinquells peanut-induced anaphylactic reactions in peanut sensitized rats. Iran J Alllrg Asth Immun 2010 1:27-34

Talbott SM, et al. β-Glucan supplementation, allergy symptoms, and quality of life …Food Science & Nutrition (2013). doi: 10.1002/fsn3.11

Weng Z, Zhang B, et al. Quercetinmore effective than cromolyn in blocking humancell … PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33805