Cold, bronchitis, strep throat... It’s hard to get through the winter without being affected by at least one of these respiratory infections. In terms of prevention, probiotic therapy may stimulate immune defenses.
Winter diseases, which are most often viral, sometimes have clinical signs very similar to the flu (Influenza virus), which is why they’re called influenza-like illnesses or flu-like symptoms.
Flu-like symptoms, often confused with flu
Flu-like symptoms include some or all of the following symptoms: fever < 38.5 C, chills, cough, fatigue, muscle ache, sore throat, headaches, runny nose, etc. Only blood tests can confirm infection with the influenza virus.
An overburdened immune system
Intestinal immune defenses protect you from attacks by pathogenic agents like bacteria and viruses. However, in winter, the immune system is attacked more often. We spend more time confined, and rooms are less well-aired. As a result, more circulating microbes are transmitted (exhaled air, coughs, sneezing).
Probiotic therapy being studied
The viral nature of winter respiratory infections immediately excludes the use of antibiotics. Treatment is symptomatic: acetaminophen, together with hydration and rest, is the basis of the medical prescription.
The use of probiotics has also been proven to be effective in clinical studies on winter respiratory diseases. The daily use of probiotics for several months reduced fever, runny nose, and coughing. It also led to a reduction in the prescription of antibiotics and the number of sick days.
Leyer GJ, Li S, Mubasher ME, Reifer C, Ouwehand AC. Probiotic effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children. Pediatrics. 2009;124:e172–e179.
Langkamp-Henken B, Rowe CC, Ford AL, et al. Bifidobacterium bifidum R0071 results in a greater proportion of healthy days and a lower percentage of academically stressed students reporting a day of cold/flu: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Br J Nutr. 2015 Feb 14;113(3):426-34.
de Vrese M, Winkler P, Rautenberg P, et al. Probiotic bacteria reduced duration and severity but not the incidence of common cold episodes in a double blind, randomized, controlled trial. Vaccine. 2006;24(44-46):6670-6674.