Allergies to peanuts have become such a big problem for adults and kids — from diarrhea and hives to shortness of breath and life-threatening anaphylaxis — many people avoid them altogether.

Despite federal regulations that ensure packaged foods list the presence of the eight major food allergens, including peanuts, paying attention to the fine print on food labels (especially foods bought in bulk) and restaurant menus requires consumers to be constantly vigilant.

You may recall the results of an Australian study conducted at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) I posted a while back that found children taking probiotics containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus along with increasing amounts of peanut protein “trained” their immune systems to develop a tolerance to small amounts of peanuts without a problem.

Combining doses of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, one of the 10 strains of beneficial bacteria contained in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic, with peanut protein would shift the body’s allergic response to one of tolerance, researchers said.

At the time, all but five of the 28 children who received this treatment consumed peanuts with few problems. So, would this protection to severe allergic symptoms last?

Commonly, the benefits of such therapies extend for a short time, and very few patients enjoy this protection over the long term, according to medical experts.

The results of follow-up research with 48 children from the previous study (featured recently in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health) were far better than many expected.

Two-thirds of the kids who were treated with probiotics four years ago and could eat peanuts safely back then were still able to do so.

Even better, more than half of those young patients in the probiotic group were eating 2 grams or more of peanuts at least once or twice a week.

“These children had been eating peanut[s] freely in their diet without having to follow any particular program of peanut intake in the years after treatment was completed,” says lead researcher Dr. Mimi Tang, according to a press release.

“The importance of this finding is that these children were able to eat peanut[s] like children who don’t have peanut [allergies] and still maintain their tolerant state, protected against reactions to peanut[s].”

Now, Australian researchers are hoping to duplicate these impressive results on a larger scale with a larger follow-up study already taking place, says Dr. Tang.

Still, rolling out an effective protocol for patients and doctors could take at least five years if not longer.

Until then, you’ll want to review my tips for avoiding peanut allergens and discuss any strategies to treat them with your family physician first.