Probiotics For The Common Cold

Probiotics can be used for something different than gut related issues!

Probiotic organisms are well known for their ability to aid digestion and help with nutrient absorption, but did you know that they also have immune stimulating effects? In fact, between 70 – 80 percent of our immune system resides within our guts.

“The intestine is our largest immune organ and centre of most of the immune activity within the body” – Dr. Nigel Plummer, 2016 1

The large intestine alone can be home to up to 100 billion organisms. When healthy and balanced, these commensal microbial organisms keep us in optimal health. Unfortunately, life happens! Poor food choices, stress, medications (antibiotics in particular), inflammation, ageing, and chronic infections can upset the balance of bacteria needed to support a healthy microbiome. When this happens, an imbalance of the microbiota occurs, shifting the ratio between “good” and “bad” bacteria, resulting in lowered immunity.

So can probiotics help with the common cold or upper respiratory tract infections? There is evidence!

A Cochrane meta-analysis from 2015 2 looked at data from 12 trials involving over 3700 healthy participants, mostly children, but also adults (aged around 40 years) and elderly. The main outcome was the episodes of upper respiratory tract infections. Compared to placebo, those who took probiotics were 50 percent less likely to develop a cold. If a participant got a cold while taking probiotics, they found that on average it lasted about 2 days less compared to participants in the placebo group. So probiotics can prevent and shorten the duration of a cold. Another meta-analysis by King (2014) looked at 20 trials in adults and children and found that probiotics reduced the duration of cough and cold symptoms by 30 percent. This was found to be more effective than both zinc and Vitamin C combined in the prevention of coughs and cold 1.

The first step in maintaining a healthy gut is to avoid the things that destroy gut flora and damage the intestinal barrier. Of course, this is not always possible, especially since we all get busy; we all make poor diet choices from time to time, and we all get sick, and sometimes we need to use antibiotics. If this is the case, there are steps you can take to restore your gut flora by:

  • Avoiding foods and chemicals that irritate the gut (this may include food sensitivities)
  • Eating plenty of foods rich in fermentable fibers (think yummy sweet potatoes)
  • Eating fermented foods like kefir and yogurt
  • Managing your stress (consider an exercise class at Niagara Health & Rehab)

And if you are considering taking a probiotic and/or a prebiotic supplement, it is important to select the right probiotic.

There are many different strains of bacteria in probiotic supplements. The benefits in one strain may be completely different from the benefits in another. For your particular health concern, one or more strains may be the most beneficial. So let’s get the most bang for each CFU (colony forming unit of bacteria)!

If you’re interested in learning more about how probiotics can benefit your health, consider booking an appointment.

Yours in health,

Dr. Stef


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