The incidence of food hypersensitivity and food allergies is on the rise and new treatment approaches are needed. We investigated whether N. sativa, one of its components, thymoquinone, or synthetic opioid receptor (OR)-agonists can alleviate food allergy. Hence, ovalbumin (OVA) -sensitized BALB/c-mice were pre-treated either with a hexanic N. sativa seed extract, thymoquinone, kappa- (U50'4889) or mu-OR-agonists (DAMGO) and subsequently challenged intra-gastrically with OVA. All 4 treatments significantly decreased clinical scores of OVA-induced diarrhea. N. sativa seed extract, thymoquinone, and U50'488 also decreased intestinal mast cell numbers and plasma mouse mast cell protease-1 (MMCP-1). DAMGO, in contrast, had no effect on mast cell parameters but decreased IFN?, IL-4, IL-5, and IL-10 concentration after ex vivo re-stimulation of mesenteric lymphocytes. The effects on allergy symptoms were reversible by OR-antagonist pre-treatment, whereas most of the effects on immunological parameter were not. We demonstrate that N. sativa seed extract significantly improves symptoms and immune parameters in murine OVA-induced allergic diarrhea; this effect is at least partially mediated by thymoquinone. ORs may also be involved and could be a new target for intestinal allergy symptom alleviation. N. sativa seed extract seems to be a promising candidate for nutritional interventions in humans with food allergy.
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