Can Probiotics Help Protect Against the Flu?What a wonderful time of the year! October is just the beginning of the cooler weather and the varied, inspiring fall colors. Beyond the changes in nature, it’s the time when we all begin to feel the spirit of the joyful holiday season, and gather closer with family and friends.

There is one drawback: fall also ushers in the flu season. In the next several weeks, the flu season will start. According to the latest CDC report, two states (Hawaii and Texas) already report a slight increase in flu cases.

Before we begin to unpack those seasonal decorations, we should all start taking precautions to avoid the flu – especially getting the flu vaccine. If you are prone to making excuses against the vaccine, here are some flu facts to keep in mind concerning the US population:

  • 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu
  • More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications
  • About 23,500 people die from flu; 80% of such deaths occur in persons aged 65 years and older.

At this point you may be wondering why we are discussing the flu in monthly probiotic newsletter. Great question!

Probiotics are Effective Blockade

Recently, there have been some very interesting medical studies reviewing the benefits of probiotics with regard to the flu. More specifically, how a probiotic might lessen the risk of contracting the flu and/or decrease flu symptoms.

In one such experiment, orally administered lactobacilli bacteria successfully assisted the immune cells to produce antibodies within the bronchial airway(1). Another investigation found that giving probiotics two weeks before the flu vaccine injection increased the immune system’s antibody response, as compared to the placebo control group(2).

Two recent studies were conducted to specifically evaluate the benefits of taking probiotics during the flu season.

The first investigation was completed with 356 children ages 3-5 years old attending daycare(4). The children who took a probiotic twice a day (the other group took a placebo) experienced the following benefits:

  • More than two-thirds less fevers (72%)
  • 62% less coughs, and 59% less runny noses
  • Duration of illness was nearly HALF of that in the placebo group (48%)
  • Missed 38% less school days, and used 84% less antibiotics

The other study(5) was conducted on 250 healthy adults. Two different probiotic preparations were used, and there was also a control group who received a placebo. As compared to the control group, the two groups who consumed probiotics for 90 days during the cold and flu season experienced these astounding benefits:

  • 41% less number of infections
  • 25% less severity of infections
  • 25% decrease in the length of infections
  • 27% reduced days out from work.

What Can You Do to Avoid Getting the Flu This Season?

The single, most important step is to get the flu vaccine. A vaccine is your insurance against the flu – it may not stop contraction of the flu, but it will greatly decrease your symptoms, helping you to get healthy much more quickly.

Additionally, here are 5 healthy habits to avoid the flu:

  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep
  • Eat healthy, fruits and vegetables which help to support the immune system
  • Exercise and regular workouts enhance the immune system
  • Avoid crowds and people who are coughing and sneezing
  • Wash your hands or use sanitizers after touching public objects

And based on the findings from the studies discussed above, it is extremely worthwhile to add a good probiotic like EndoMune to your daily regimen.

Eat healthy, exercise and live well!
Dr. Hoberman

References:

(1) Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 1999 May-Aug;12(2):97-102.Influence of the  oral administration of lactic acid bacteria on iga producing cells associated to bronchus.Perdigon GAlvarez SMedina MVintiñi ERoux E

(2) Nutrition. 2007 Mar;23(3):254-60.Oral intake of Lactobacillus fermentum CECT5716 enhances the effects of influenza vaccination.Olivares MDíaz-Ropero MPSierra SLara-Villoslada FFonollá JNavas MRodríguez JMXaus J

(3) Effect of long term consumption of probiotic milk on infections in children attending day care centres: double blind, randomised trial.Hatakka K, Savilahti E, Pönkä A, Meurman JH, Poussa T, Näse L, Saxelin M, Korpela R.BMJ. 2001 Jun 2;322(7298):1327

(4) Pediatrics. 2009 Aug;124(2):e172-9. Epub 2009 Jul 27.Probiotic effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children.Leyer GJLi SMubasher MEReifer COuwehand AC

(5) J Clin Gastroenterol. 2008 Sep;42 Suppl 3 Pt 2:S224-33.A new chance of preventing winter diseases by the administration of synbiotic formulations.Pregliasco FAnselmi GFonte LGiussani FSchieppati SSoletti L.