Probiotics may ease the common cold and influenza
In recent years, researchers have discovered the health benefits of probiotics. Probiotics are “good” bacteria and are available in certain yogurts and in supplement form. New studies suggest that probiotics may help to prevent and ease two of the most widespread respiratory infections – the common cold and influenza or flu.
What Are Cold and Flu?
The common cold (infectious nasopharyngitis) is the most frequently occuring infection of the upper respiratory tract. About 200 viruses can lead to colds. Rhinovirus is the most common culprit, causing about 50 percent of all cold cases. Symptoms don’t show up for about 1 to 3 days after you come into contact with the virus.
Influenza or the flu is a virus that mutates quickly as it moves between species. Influenza A is the most common strain of influenza. Most avian influenza (bird flu) strains pose little harm but some can be very deadly to humans, livestock and domesticated chickens. When humans come into contact with contaminated pigs or chickens, they too can get the infection. H1N1 – inappropriately dubbed “swine flu” – was the latest deadly flu pandemic and contained bird and swine flu.
What are the Symptoms?
Cold symptoms usually develop about 1 to 3 days after exposure to the virus. Cold symptoms usually involve throat irritation or stuffiness in the nose. Full-blown cold symptoms include mild sore throat, nasal discharge, fever, coughing, sneezing, muscle aches, and minor headaches. In some cases there may be a mild fever.
Flu symptoms usually occur 1 to 4 days after you’ve been in contact with the influenza virus. They include runny nose, sore throat, headache, fatigue, a fever above 103°F (about 39°C), dry cough, vomiting, diarrhea, ear infections, and muscle aches. The symptoms usually subside in 4 to 5 days but coughing and physical illness may last for more than 2 weeks.
Evidence of Probiotics As Remedies for Cold and Flu
Swedish researchers conducted a study comparing the sick leave of workers who took a probiotic drink containing the bacteria Lactobacillus reuteri for 80 days to workers who didn’t take . Twenty-three out of 87 workers in the placebo group reported sick leave during the study, compared with only 10 out of 94 workers in the probiotic group. None of the 26 shift workers in the L.reuteri group reported taking sick days compared to 9 out of 27 shift workers in the placebo group.
In another study 326 children ages 3 to 5 years old were randomly assigned to receive a placebo, Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM, or L acidophilus NCFM in combination with Bifidobacterium animalis subsp lactis Bi-07 twice a day for 6 months. In relation to the placebo group, single and combination probiotics reduced the incidences of fever by 53.0 percent and 72.7 percent, coughing incidences by 41.4 percent and 62.1 percent, and runny nose incidences by 28.2 percent and 48 percent.
To ward off cold and flu, especially during peak season, try adding a probiotic food or probiotic supplement to your diet each day. Side effects from probiotics are very rare; if they do occur they’re most likely to be mild gas or bloating.
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