Probiotics and digestive enzymes prevent colds and flu; research has shown. Probiotics are the healthy bacteria that live in the intestines. Harmful bacteria include those like E. coli (Escherichia col), etc, but there are many bacteria that inhabit our gut that help with our digestion. Now, studies have shown that probiotics also help the immune response by both preventing colds and flu and speeding recovery time.
Probiotics are included in many forms of yogurt, kefir, and other cultured milk products, such as sour cream. Most probiotics help the immune system prevent diseases such as irritable bowel, diarrhea, and allergies.
A study published in the medical journal Pediatrics was conducted on 326 children in China. They were from the age of three to five years old. The children were given milk twice daily that contained the probiotics Lactobacillus acidophilus by itself, or combined with Bifidobacterium animalis. The children were followed for six months, from November 2005 to May 2006.
The study results were impressive and showed that the one probiotic was helpful but the benefit was enhanced in the group who took the two probiotics together. The group who took the Lactobacillus contracted had half the number of fevers of the placebo group (53%). They also had 41% less coughs and 28% less runny noses. When they became sick, their illnesses were one third shorter than the placebo group (32%) and they used 68% less antibiotics. They missed 38% less school than the placebo group as well.
The children who took both Lactobacillus acidophilus along with the Bifidobacterium animalis contracted over two thirds less fevers than the placebo group (72%). They had 62% less coughs, and 59% less runny noses. Their duration of illness was nearly HALF of that in the placebo group (48%). They missed slightly less school than the children taking only one probiotic (32% compared to the other group’s 38%), but they used 84% less antibiotics compared to the placebo group, surpassing the other group’s level of 68% less usage.
The study was double blind and placebo controlled, and it was conducted during the winter cold and flu season. Though the study was funded by a Danish company that makes probiotics, Danisco, similar results have been sited elsewhere.
With the benefits from probiotics proven in other areas of digestive health and improved immune function, there is reason to add probiotics to a healthy diet regime year-round.