Everyday in the news there are updates about this year’s flu season, especially about the H1N1 virus (Swine flu).  By all accounts, the infectivity rate is going to be very high.

We have all heard the recommendations:

  • Get the vaccine
  • Wash your hands
  • Avoid crowds
  • Don’t sneeze or cough into your hands
  • Drink lots of fluid, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, exercise and get 7 hours of sleep

Is there any other preventive therapy that is over the counter and without any adverse effects? You guessed it, PROBIOTICS!!

This month in the medical journal, Pediatrics, a study was published: “Probiotics Effects on Cold and Influenza-like Symptom Incidence and Duration in Children” (1).

Method: Healthy children ages 3-5 were randomly placed in one of three groups: 104 received a placebo; 110 received a probiotic containing Lactobacillus acidophilus; 112 received a probiotic containing L acidophilus in combination with Bifidobacterium lactis. The children were given the probiotics daily for 6 months and monitored for cold and influenza-like symptoms.

Results: Compared to the placebo group, single and combination probiotics reduced the following symptoms, antibiotic usage, and reduction in days missed from school:

Conclusion: Daily intake of a probiotic supplement for 6 months during the cold and flu season was a safe and effective way to reduce the frequency of symptoms of colds and flu, reduce antibiotic usage and lessen missed days from school. A two strain probiotic in a dosage of 10 billon colonies is very beneficial.

Discussion: So I imagine you are all saying, “that is very interesting, but I am not a 3 year old.”

Well, there have been a number of studies (2,3,4,5,6) done over the last 4-5 years to determine if probiotics can lessen or prevent viral upper respiratory infections in not only children but also healthy adults, young and old.

One study done on healthy adults investigated the effect of long-term consumption of probiotics on viral respiratory infections during two winter/spring periods (4). The combination of a probiotic containing lactobacilli and bifidobacteriaa successfully shortened the duration of cold infections by two days and reduced the severity of symptoms. The incidence of infections, however, was not affected.

Another published paper did a systematic review of probiotics efficacy in preventing respiratory tract infections (5). Twelve controlled trials were reviewed, half reviewed adults and the other half reviewed children and infants. While the trials varied in duration of probiotic taken, dosage and type of bacterial strain, most of the trials noted a significant reduction in the severity of symptoms, but not the incidence of infection. A few did report a decrease in the frequency of infections.

There is a considerable amount of research being directed toward the mechanisms by which orally ingested probiotics can affect the immune system to lessen viral respiratory infections. Studies have shown that use of probiotics can stimulate the immune system in the gastrointestinal tract, producing more immune cells. In turn, those immune cells can stop inflammation and can also attack the viruses as they invade the lining of the respiratory tract (4, 7, 8, 9). The stimulated immune cells can migrate from the GI tract to other areas of the body…including the respiratory tract.

Take Home Message

With these kinds of study results, it seems reasonable during the flu season to take a daily probiotic that contains a combination of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria in a serving size or dosage of 10 billon colonies or more — like EndoMune.

Thank you for your interest in EndoMune.
Eat healthy, exercise and live well!!

Larry Hoberman MD

(1)Probiotic effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children.Leyer GJ, Li S, Mubasher ME, Reifer C, Ouwehand AC; Pediatrics. 2009 Aug;124(2):e172-9. Epub 2009 Jul 27

(2) Effect of a dietary supplement containing probiotic bacteria plus vitamins and minerals on common cold infections and cellular immune parameters. Winkler P, de Vrese M, Laue Ch, Schrezenmeir J; Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2005 Jul;43(7):318-26.

(3)A new chance of preventing winter diseases by the administration of synbiotic formulations.Pregliasco F, Anselmi G, Fonte L, Giussani F, Schieppati S, Soletti L; J Clin Gastroenterol. 2008 Sep;42 Suppl 3 Pt 2:S224-33.

(4) Probiotic bacteria reduced duration and severity but not the incidence of common cold episodes in a double blind, randomized, controlled trial.de Vrese M, Winkler P, Rautenberg P, Harder T, Noah C, Laue C, Ott S, Hampe J, Schreiber S, Heller K, Schrezenmeir J; Vaccine. 2006 Nov 10;24(44-46):6670-4. Epub 2006 Jun 6.

(5) Probiotics for the prevention of respiratory tract infections: a systematic review.Vouloumanou EK, Makris GC, Karageorgopoulos DE, Falagas ME; Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2009 Sep;34(3):197.e1-10. Epub 2009 Jan 28.
Probiotics in intestinal and non-intestinal infectious diseases–clinical evidence.
Hatakka K, Saxelin M; Curr Pharm Des. 2008;14(14):1351-67. Review.

(6) Effect of fermented milk containing the probiotic Lactobacillus casei DN-114001 on winter infections in free-living elderly subjects: a randomised, controlled pilot study.Turchet P, Laurenzano M, Auboiron S, Antoine JM; J Nutr Health Aging. 2003;7(2):75-7.

(7) Probiotics in intestinal and non-intestinal infectious diseases–clinical evidence. Hatakka K, Saxelin M; Curr Pharm Des. 2008;14(14):1351-67. Review.

(8) Molecular and cellular basis of microflora-host interactions.Winkler P, Ghadimi D, Schrezenmeir J, Kraehenbuhl JP; J Nutr. 2007 Mar;137(3 Suppl 2):756S-72S. Review.

(9) Probiotic and prebiotic influence beyond the intestinal tract. Lenoir-Wijnkoop I, Sanders ME, Cabana MD, Caglar E, Corthier G, Rayes N, Sherman PM, Timmerman HM, Vaneechoutte M, Van Loo J, Wolvers DA; Nutr Rev. 2007 Nov;65(11):469-89. Review