Flu season is a fact of life – every winter as the days become shorter, the temperatures drop and our need for hibernation sets in, cold and flu bugs propagate. While we’ve known the merits of taking vitamin C and zinc to fight cold and flu for many years, there is a new Immunity- Buster on the block and it has been clinically proven to not only reduce duration of coughs, colds and fever, but also offer targeted preventative protection. The secret to Winter Bliss: Probiotics.

Colds and flus are often treated with medications designed to reduce only the symptoms of infection. They do not however activate the body’s own immune system to fight against the invading pathogens. That is what makes probiotics different. Probiotics provide defense against the common cold by activating the body’s own immune response, to help the immune system to produce antibodies to fight bacteria and viruses[i]. In this way, probiotics also reduce the risk of getting upper respiratory tract infections, including colds and flus.

Interestingly, a recent systemic review and meta-analysis found that taking a probiotic supplement for a minimum of 2 weeks before the flu shot can also improve the effectiveness of the vaccine[ii]. Research found that people who took probiotics had increased protection from certain strains of the flu. Specifically, older adults who took the supplements over longer periods of time seemed to benefit the most from probiotics.

Probiotics work in several ways to enhance immunity and prevent infection– they block pathogenic bacteria by competing with pathogens and viruses for space on the intestinal wall. They also enhance gastrointestinal barrier function, making it harder for bacteria to enter the blood stream and move throughout the body.

Probiotics have also be shown in scientific study to shorten illness models of the common cold, with a half-day decrease in illness duration, making them a highly important Winter immune support. Specifically, lactobacillus and bifidobacterium strains have displayed significant action against acute respiratory illness. Furthermore, a randomized, parallel, double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed that consumption of Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus paracasei for a 12 week period could reduce the risk of acquiring the common cold: the incidence of cold episodes, number of days with cold symptoms and pharyngeal symptoms were all reduced[iii].

Lactobacillus rhamnosus has also been closely associated with healthy immune system functioning[iv]. A myriad of studies link this strain to a reduction in risk of respiratory tract infections and illness, promotion of gut health and reduction in stomach upset. Like L.Rhamnosus, Lactobacillus paracasei also supports a healthy digestive system and enhances the immune response. One study linked the L.paracasei strain to a reduction in the duration of cold and flu symptoms by 3 days[v]. In addition, clinical trials link Lactobacillus acidophilus supplementation to the reduction and prevention of cold and flu symptoms. In a study of 326 children, 6 months of daily L.acidophilus probiotics reduced incidence of fever by 53% and coughing by 41%[vi], making it your kid’s best friend during the Winter freeze.

For older Australians and children alike, a high-strength probiotic blend provides protection against the colds and flus of Winter. Get started today!

[i] Current Opinions in Gastroenterology; 2011 Oct; 27(6); 496-501

[ii] Davidson LE, Fiorino AM, Snydman DR, Hibberd PL. Lactobacillus GG as an immune adjuvant for live-attenuated influenza vaccine in healthy adults: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 2011 Nov; 65; 501-507

[iii] Berggren A, Lazou Ahren I, Larsson N, Onning G. Randomised, double-blind and placebo-controlled study using new probiotic Lactobacilli for strengthening the body immune defense against viral infection. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011; 50; 203-210

[iv] Hojsak I, Abdovic S et al. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of nosocomial gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections. Pediatrics. 2010 May; 125 (5); 171-7.

[v] Rizzardini G, Eskesen D, Calder PC, Capetti A. Evaluation of the immune system benefits of two probiotic strains Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. Lactis, BB-12 and Lactobacillus paracasei ssp. Paracasei in an influenza vaccination model: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Journal of Nutrition.2012 Mar; 107 (6), 876-84

[vi] Leyer GJ, Li S, Mubasher ME, Reifer C, Ouwehand AC. Probiotic effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children. Pediatrics. 2009 Aug. 124(4); 172-9