You have seen the ads; supplements promising to help manage restore your digestive balance. Research on probiotics is still in its early stages, so more about their benefits (or non-benefits for that matter) is still to come. A recent study shows that probiotics may have benefits beyond the guts; they may help reduce colds and upper-respiratory infections.
A team of researchers from University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Health Related Professions tested a group of 198 university students living in close quarters during a cold outbreak. In a double-blind study, subjects took either probiotic supplements or a placebo for 12 weeks while responding to survey questions daily.
While all of the students caught colds at roughly the same rate, the students who supplemented with probiotics had shorter colds by two days, symptoms that were 34 percent less severe, and fewer missed school days.
“Cold symptoms like a stuffy nose and sore throat are the body’s inflammatory response toward a virus, not a direct action of the virus itself,” says lead researcher Tracey J. Smith. “Probiotic microorganisms may soften your immune system’s reaction by reducing your body’s inflammatory response.” See original story
This is actually not the first study that shows potential benefits of probiotic supplements for cold symptoms. In fact, this has been one of the touted benefits of probiotics. The article mentions a study done in 2008 showed similar results.
Probiotics are good bacteria that help prevent bad bacteria from growing in your body. They are also referred to as “intestinal flora”. Probiotics also assist in digestion, immune function and vitamin production.
Not many are aware that there are other types of beneficial bacteria known as prebiotics. These are what feeds probiotics and stimulate their growth. (See Prebiotics and Probiotics)
There are many different types of probiotics, and expet opinions differ as to which are most important. A good number of health professionals are of the view that lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium bifidum are the most important types.