Probiotics for Colds and Flu

Probiotics can have big benefits for your gut, which can have a less obvious effect on immunity. 

Adding probiotics to your diet can help to boost your immunity and protect against colds and flu. Restoring levels of “good” gut bacteria gives your body a platform to fight back against threats and boost T-cell activity. This makes it easier for your body to kill the viruses that cause colds and flu. The result? You recover a bit quicker and have less severe symptoms. 

According to the 2017 study results in Nutrients journal, eating yogurt rich in probiotics for 12 weeks helped older adults increase immune cells that work on viruses.

In another study, shift workers who were given fermented dairy for 3 months were less affected by respiratory infections and showed increased immune activity. This led researchers to put probiotics forward as a way to improve immunity against common infections. 

It’s also thought that probiotics may help to “seal” the intestinal barrier, which can stop germs and viruses from finding a way through. 

What should you look for in probiotics? The words “live and active cultures” (or similar) are a must. The lactobacillus acidophilus (l. acidophilus) and/or Bifidobacterium (B. bifidum) strains are two of the most powerful probiotics, which makes them a good choice for improving immunity. Other studies have looked at the Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus paracasei strains, which also seem pretty good bets for warding off colds and flu. 

While most Lactobacillus strains have shown promise when it comes to colds and flu, they’re not all perfect choices. One study looked at the Lactobacillus salivarius strain and found that it did little to protect against colds and flu for endurance athletes and did not alter their immune activity. 

Here’s a quick and handy list of probiotics that are thought to have cold and flu-fighting powers:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobaciullus casei
  • Lactobacillus paracasei
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus gasseri
  • Lactobacillus pentosus
  • Bifidobacterium animalis subsp lactis
  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Bifidobacterium bifidus

Studies have also strongly suggested that probiotics are safe for kids and are effective for helping them get over colds and flu more quickly. Even better, they also helped cut the amount of time that they were not at school because of sickness. For kids, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium animalis have been the most researched probiotics. 

You can also get your probiotics through fermented foods such as kefir, miso, tempeh, and sauerkraut, as well as probiotic supplements and probiotic-rich drinks and yogurts. 

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