The Many Health Benefits of Probiotics

Florastor is used as a probiotic or friendly bacteria to maintain normal bowel function and promote intestinal health.
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I have written before about how probiotics can help you if you have a stomach bug or upset stomach. But could they even help with things like preventing colds? 

Apparently the answer is yes.

We'll get to that in a minute. 

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms found naturally in your gut or GI system. They are available over the counter in oral supplement form as well as in yogurt, probiotic drinks and some suppositories or creams.

The microorganisms found in probiotics are often referred to as "good bacteria". 

There are many different types of bacteria that fall into the probiotics category. The most commonly used in supplement form in the United States are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. However, even among these two groups there are many different strains or types of bacteria. All strains may not have the same effects and they have not all been studied. 

When Should I Take Them?

The use of probiotics is on the rise and they seem to have few side effects for most people. Studies to show how beneficial they may be are ongoing. The majority of research has focused on how probiotics may benefit people with diarrhea or chronic GI issues such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn's disease.

Because probiotics are sold and marketed as supplements, they are not regulated by the FDA and cannot make claims that they cure or prevent any illness, condition or disease.

Nevertheless, many health care providers recommend their use and believe they have many health benefits. They are even more popular outside of the United States.

So What's This About Probiotics and Colds?

Multiple studies have been conducted looking at how well probiotics may prevent or reduce the duration of the common cold or other upper respiratory infections.

Reviews of these studies have found that probiotics may lead to a moderate reduction in the duration of the common cold. Those that took probiotics experienced a shorter duration of symptoms by about one day.

A few studies showed some benefit for preventing these illnesses but others did not. There was not enough conclusive evidence to show that taking probiotics will prevent a cold to recommend their use for this purpose. 

Due to their popularity, studies about the benefits and risks of probiotics continue. 

Given the relatively low cost of these supplements and minimal - if any - side effects, there is little risk in trying them to see if they might help you. As always, if you have any type of chronic medical condition, are pregnant or breastfeeding or take other medications, discuss your options with your health care provider prior to taking probiotics. 

Sources:

King, Sarah et al. “Effectiveness of Probiotics on the Duration of Illness in Healthy Children and Adults Who Develop Common Acute Respiratory Infectious Conditions: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” The British Journal of Nutrition 112.1 (2014): 41–54. PMC. Web. 27 June 2015.

Kang, En-Jin et al. “The Effect of Probiotics on Prevention of Common Cold: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trial Studies.” Korean Journal of Family Medicine 34.1 (2013): 2–10. PMC. Web. 27 June 2015.

"Oral Probiotics: An Introduction". National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Dec 12. US Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. 27 Jun 15.

"Common Cold". Medical Encyclopedia 15 Jun 15. MedlinePlus. US National Library of Medicine. US Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health 27 Jun 15. 

 

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