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How To Fight The Common Cold with Certain Probiotics

Probiotics and common cold

Now that the common cold season is upon us, it’s time to take action against developing the characteristic sniffles, sneezes, and scratchy throat. A new study suggests certain probiotics can reduce your risk of having to fight this viral nuisance, but which probiotics seem to work best?

Not all probiotics are the same

Many studies have been in the news concerning the pros and cons of probiotics and how these beneficial bacteria can help prevent and manage a number of symptoms and diseases. Although much has been written about how probiotics can help with various gastrointestinal conditions such as diarrhea and inflammatory bowel disease, they also can be helpful against the common cold.

In this latest study, for example, a multicenter team explored the effect of Bifidobacterium lactis subsp. lactis BI-04 in healthy adults. This probiotic was compared with two others, which were given together: Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and B. animalis subsp. lactis BI-07.

The double-blind, placebo-controlled trial included 241 men and 224 women (average age 35 years) who were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Each group followed the program for 150 days.

  • Group 1 took 2 billion CFUs (colony forming units, which is how probiotics are measured) of BI-04
  • Group 2 took 5 billion CFUs of a combination of NCFM and BI-07
  • Group 3 took a placebo

At the end of the trial period, the researchers found that participants in group 1 had a 27 percent reduced risk of developing an upper respiratory tract infection than did those in group 3. Individuals who took the combination of probiotics also demonstrated less risk (19%), but this was not a significant difference. In addition:

  • The average time until an episode of the common cold appeared was 2.5 months in the placebo group compared with 3.2 months in the BI-04 group and 3.4 months in the NCFM plus BI-07 group
  • Participants in the combination probiotic group undertook significantly more physical activity (8.5%) than did individuals in the BI-04 group (6.7%) or the placebo (where there was a decline of 10%)

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Also read: Probiotics To The Rescue, 8 Reasons To Try Them
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The take-home message
The researchers, who fared from Griffith University, the Australian Institute of Sport, the Australian National University, the University of Sydney, and DuPont Nutrition & Health, concluded that “The positive effects of probiotics supplementation appear to extend beyond individuals considered to have a high susceptibility to illness” and that “NCFM & BI-07 supplementation may be a useful nutritional adjunct to reduce the negative effects of illness on patterns of physical activity.”

In other words, probiotics—at least the ones examined in this study—appear to help reduce the risk of developing the common cold in otherwise healthy adults. Previous research has indicated that probiotics also are effective in reducing the common cold among infants.

Also Read: Autism and Probiotics, New Info Parents Should Know

To help prevent the common cold for yourself and your family, the use of probiotics along with typically recommended precautions such as frequent hand washing and a nutritious diet, are suggested.

West NP et al. Probiotic supplementation for respiratory and gastrointestinal illness symptoms in healthy physically active individuals. Clinical Nutrition 2013 Oct. Epub ahead of print. DOI:10.1016/j.clnu.2013.10.002

Photo: Morguefile



If there is a deficiency of probiotics there must be a reason as the small intestine releases juices containing probiotic bacteria when triggered by the brain. Most of the breakdown of the large food molecules and absorption of the smaller molecules take place in the long and narrow small intestine. It is divided into 3 sections: the duodenum (after the stomach), jejunum and ileum. The duodenum receives 3 different secretions: 1) Bile from the liver; 2) Pancreatic juice from the pancreas and 3) Intestinal juice from glands in the intestinal wall. These juices replace gut flora continually and complete the digestion of starch, fats and protein. The products of digestion are then absorbed into the blood and lymphatic system. Of course, you need to realize that this production of intestinal juice is being triggered by the brain ONLY if the brain recognizes a food. If the brain does not recognize a food as beneficial it activates the immune system. Allergic reactions are the underlying cause of depleted gut flora. The recognition of food as beneficial occurs through the vagus nerve, which helps to regulate the heart beat, control muscle movement, keep a person breathing, and to transmit a variety of chemicals through the body. It is also responsible for keeping the digestive tract in working order, contracting the muscles of the stomach and intestines to help process food, and sending back information about what is being digested and what the body is getting out of it. It is indeed very doubtful if orally administered probiotic could survive the trip through hydrochloric acid of the stomach, carbonate of soda from the pancreas, and bile from the liver. All three secretions are meant to breakdown foods for digestion.