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Benefits of Probiotics against the Common Cold

Studies regarding probiotics has revealed its significant potential in reducing the risk of acquiring common cold especially during the cold months of winter.

There are over 500 million cases of the common cold in the United States each year. Rhinoviruses are identified as the culprit causing this viral infection. For the common cold alone, the cost amounts to a whopping $40 billion each year. This is according to a study on common cold published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

A group of researchers,led by Anna Berggren of Sweden, conducted a study regarding the undiscovered health benefits of probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms that positively influence the health of its host. Bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria are the two most common microbes used as probiotics, and there are several strains of probiotics depending on the process by which it is cultured. Lactobacillus plantarum and lactobacillus paracasei were shown to have positive influence against common colds.

The results of the study revealed that individuals who were taking the strains of probiotics had a 55 percent reduction in incidents of catching the common cold. The researchers added that the duration of the symptoms was also reduced by probiotics and concluded that it is effective in reducing the risk of acquiring common cold. This study was published in the European Journal of Nutrition. It consisted of 272 healthy participants taking probiotic supplement for 12 weeks.

The consumption of probiotics alongside other effective immune boosters can reduce the risk of an upper respiratory tract infection like otitis, sinusitis, pharyngitis, and rhinitis. It has also been observed to have preventive benefits against cold to children in day care centers. This additional study on the health benefits of probiotics against common cold in Croatians was published in Clinical Nutrition on June of 2010.

Understanding Probiotics

Probiotics have been proven by medical studies to have numerous health benefits to the body when taken in adequate amount. They can come in the form of bifidobacteria, lactic acid bacteria, bacilli and even in yeast form. Probiotics are usually found in fermented foods such as yogurts and dietary supplements. Japan is one of the leaders in culturing probiotics and it is one of the countries with the most products containing probiotics in the market.

Unlike other bacteria that are known to have harmful effects to the body, probiotics help the body fight bad bacteria while providing support to the immune system at the same time.  This support readies the body from future attacks. Studies on the benefits of probiotics even suggest that it is not only beneficial in preventing some types of diseases but it may also have curative properties. Clinical studies since the middle of the 1990s have established significant evidence that probiotics can help in overcoming several gastrointestinal diseases. These bacteria settle in the gut and keep pathogens and other harmful microorganisms from harming the body and helps in the proper function of the immune system.

Health Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics are being continuously subjected to experiments and scientific studies to discover and obtain proof of its medicinal uses and health benefits. However, there are only preliminary results available and most of the potential benefits of probiotics need further research. Despite that, probiotics have been proven to be safe for human consumption and scientists are spending time and effort in obtaining proof of its value in influencing the immune system, in fighting cancer, and as a bio-therapeutic agent for severe diarrhea and irritable bowel movement.

The health benefits of probiotics are as follows;

Lactose Intolerance

Probiotics may help lactose-intolerant individuals adapt to more lactose. Therefore, the person can drink milk since probiotics helps the body convert lactose into lactic acid more easily and at a faster rate.

Lowering Cholesterol Levels

A popular strain of probiotics, lactobacillus bulgaricus (LAB), had demonstrated significance by helping break down bile produced by the gut. This helps break down cholesterol and has the resultant effect of lowering cholesterol levels. For human subjects who were fed with LAB, some showed reduced levels of cholesterol in their body.

Colon Cancer Prevention

In clinical investigations, Lactobacillus bulgaricus has demonstrated to have significant influence over the mutation of colon cancer cells. LAB has the ability to bind with carcinogenic substances called heterocyclic amines, which are found in cooked meat. This is one of the compounds thought to cause colon cancer. Laboratory experiments made on rodents with regards to the effects of LAB on colon cancer have shown promising results. However, the results in human trials are insufficient and conflicting. Although it has been recorded by a population study that people with high fermented dairy consumption has lower risk of developing colon cancer.

Immune System

Probiotics can protect the body against diseases by competing with pathogens in terms of growth and thus helping improve the immune function. Clinical studies have proven that probiotics help prevent and decrease the severity of respiratory tract infections, diarrhea, and rotavirus infection in children. Probiotics is also beneficial in counteracting the side effects of antibiotics by keeping the immune system alert and ready to take over once the body stops taking antibiotics.

Reduction of Inflammation

Clinical studies have revealed that probiotics can regulate the cytokine function of the body. In effect, it regulates the body’s hypersensitivity and inflammatory responses.

Other Health Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics have also been observed to improve the bioavailability of nutrients such as calcium, iron, copper, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium and B vitamins. It is also being studied to have beneficial effects in maintaining the acidity of the female genital environment thereby preventing the onset of bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infection and yeast infection.

Healthy Tips to Prevent the Common Cold

The common cold can be prevented by taking sufficient dosage of probiotics and immune boosting foods and adequate exercise. There are over 200 different viruses that cause the common cold.  Remember that cold symptoms vary when it comes to its levels of severity.

Aside from maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it also important to be watchful of where you put your hands. Cold-causing viruses can spread through droplets and can live outside the body for an extended period of time. Touching surfaces may transmit the virus. So here are a few tips to live by:

  • Avoid touching your face. You can also use a hand sanitizer or any form of disinfectant to keep your hands clean while you are on the go.
  • Always keep it a habit to wash your hands frequently
  • If you have colds, be proactive when it comes to keeping the infection from spreading by throwing your used tissues properly, covering your mouth when you sneeze and by staying at home to avoid contact with other people as much as possible.


Sources

nutraingredients.com
medicinenet.com
health.harvard.edu

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