Probiotics may reduce cold symptoms?!

A double blind, placebo-controlled study of 326 children, ages 3-5 years old, received probiotics twice daily for 6 months with decrease in fever, runny nose, and cough as well as duration and antibiotic use as well as missed school/sick days. A similar study was conducted amongst 200 college students – sleep less, spread germs, and stressed, all habits that increase odds of getting sick. Rates of catching colds was similar but the students on the probiotics missed 15 school days compared to 34 days missed by the placebo group.
Cold symptoms resolved 2 days sooner in the group taking the probiotic and symptoms were reportedly 1/3 of the severity.

Why do probiotics work?

Probiotics are microorganisms that reduce the body’s immune system response by reducing the inflammation response. Two types of probiotics used together in the study were lactobacillus rhamnosus and bifidobacterium animalis, available at local drug stores.

In an article posted by ScienceDaily, “College students are notoriously sleep-deprived, live in close quarters and lead stress-filled lives, making them especially susceptible for contracting colds and upper-respiratory infections. For these reasons, a team lead by researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Health Related Professions (UMDNJ-SHRP) selected this population to study the effects of probiotic supplementation on health-related quality of life (HRQL) during the common cold.

The study, led by Registered Dietitian Tracey J. Smith, an adjunct professor at UMDNJ-SHRP, randomized 198 college students aged 18 to 25 and living on-campus in residence halls at Framingham State University in Massachusetts. Groups received either a placebo (97 students) or a powder blend containing Chr. Hansen’s probiotic strains BB-12® and LGG® (101 students) for 12 weeks. Each day, students completed a survey to assess the effect of the probiotic supplementation.

Although there have been previous studies on the effect of probiotics on the duration of colds and severity of symptoms, this is the first study to investigate the effect of probiotic strains on HRQL during upper-respiratory infections, taking into account duration, symptom severity and functional impairment — all important factors of HRQL.

What makes probiotics so effective in treating symptoms of upper-respiratory infections? “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,” explains Smith. “Probiotic microorganisms may soften your immune system’s reaction by reducing your body’s inflammatory response.”

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