Could Probiotics Improve Asthma?

Did You Know Your gut and Asthma Are Related?

Probiotics and Asthma
Probiotics and Asthma. Getty Images

While the impact of probiotics on asthma is not clear, the allure of this class of drugs for the prevention and treatment of asthma is. Administration of natural, live micro-organisms with minimal side effects that can provide a beneficial health outcome for a disease with increasing impacts on patient and society is very desirable to patients.

While there have been a number of small studies showing benefits of treatment with probiotics on asthma, when these studies are combined through the process of systematic review and meta-analysis an overall benefit has not been seen.

Overall, probiotics cannot currently be recommended for either the prevention or treatment of asthma.

What Are Probiotics

Probiotics are live are live microorganisms that you may take to confer a positive impact on your asthma or decrease the risk of developing asthma.

Probiotics were the 5th most commonly used natural health product in kids, but use in adults was much less according to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey.

How Might Probiotics Help Asthma

The microflora hypothesis suggests that changes in bacteria impact the development of asthma and allergic disease. Gut bacteria are thought to help the immune system develop and perturbations to the process impact allergic disease. In fact, changes in gut bacteria precede the development of atopic dermatitis and are noted to be the first step in the development of allergic symptoms. Overuse of antibiotics decreased rates of breastfeeding, and changes in diet have led to changes in the gut microflora and potentially an increase in allergic disease.

While difficult to prove, studies in animals have shown that administration of antibiotics has led to hyper-responsive airways.

A number of studies have demonstrated that administration of Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus fermentum either during pregnancy or shortly after birth leads to a decreased incidence of asthma and other allergic diseases.

However, a number of studies have also failed to show a similar benefit.

Probiotics primarily impact asthma through its anti-inflammatory component.

Clinical Trials Of Probiotic Use On Asthma Outcomes

In 4 randomized trials of probiotics in the treatment of asthma, a number of outcomes have been reported. One study demonstrated increased symptom-free periods, while another showed decreased need for cromolyn sodium. One study demonstrated improvements in peak flow with use of probiotics.

Other clinical outcomes did not improve and include quality of life, the total number of asthma episodes, use of controller or rescue medications. FEV1 did not demonstrate a significant difference in patients receiving probiotics compared to those receiving placebo.

Are Probiotics Safe

With the exception of gas like symptoms, patients seem to experience very few side effects and tolerate probiotics. However, there is relatively little available data on the long-term use of probiotics or the combination of probiotics with other medical treatments.

While not a true safety issue, probiotics are not regulated as they are considered a supplement. Because of this, there are also not strict regulations governing the manufacturing process. As a result, some probiotics have been found to contain strains that are not listed on the label as well as smaller amounts of live organisms than what is claimed.

Learn More About Complementary and Alternative Asthma Treatments


  1. KalliomäkiM,SalminenS,PoussaT,ArvilommiH,IsolauriE. Probiotics and prevention of atopic disease: 4-year follow-up of a randomised placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 2003; 361(9372):1869–1871.
  2. Weston S, Halbert A, Richmond P, Prescott SL. Effects of probiotics on atopic dermatitis: a randomised controlled trial. Arch Dis Child. 2005;90(9):892–897.
  3. Pelucchi C, Chatenoud L, Turati F, Galeone C, Moja L, Bach JF, et al. Probiotics supplementation during pregnancy or infancy for the prevention of atopic dermatitis: a meta-analysis. Epidemiology 2012;23:402–14.

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