Over the past few years, there has been much research that indicates the prevalence of food allergies are on the rise. One type of food that is a common allergen is peanuts.

Peanuts aren’t nuts, despite common belief, but rather, legumes. A peanut allergy is often lumped together with a tree nut allergy (cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds) because many people allergic to peanuts also react to tree nuts.

No nuts for me, please

There is little research revealing how many NZ adults are allergic to peanuts. Either way, avoiding nuts in a diet can be a lot more difficult than you think! While many products only state that they “may contain nuts”, for anyone that has more than a mild reaction avoiding even these products may be essential.

Allergy NZ estimates that around 1 in 50 babies have a peanut allergy. The symptoms aren’t typically severe – rashes, eczema, hives – but for the more sensitive individuals, exposure to peanuts can cause breathing difficulties, called anaphylaxis. This is sometimes life-threatening.

Consume the legume

A study published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal has recently found that probiotics could help people to eat peanuts.

It is by no means a cure, but the study focuses on the friendly bacteria that probiotics provide. By boosting the gut with probiotics, it might help the digestive system to process peanuts without having an allergic reaction.

The study spanned four years and involved just under 60 children. One group consumed the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus alongside increasing amounts of peanut protein whilst the other group was given a placebo.

After only 18 months of exposure to peanuts, 82 percent of those taking probiotics were now tolerant to peanuts. Four years after the trial ended, it was found that 70 percent of participants had built up a long-term tolerance.

What does this mean?

Science is still a little while off from finding a peanut allergy cure, but it just goes to show the vast benefits that probiotics can have in our gut.

However, it is important to note that this study only tested a small sample size, and that there were also many other factors to consider when administering peanut protein to those who are allergic.

If you want to start introducing new foods into your diet that you may be allergic to, consult your doctor or nutritionist first.