Probiotics Prevent Colds

Here’s a summary of a study that just appeared in Pediatrics:

More than 300 children between three and five years of age were randomly assigned to receive three different milk formulations: plain milk, milk plus the bacterium Lactobacillus acidophilus, or milk with Lactobacillus plus the bacterium Bifodobacterium animalis.

The group that just received Lactobacillus were half as likely to develop a cold and a fever. They also had fewer coughs and runny noses. Those that got both strains of probiotics had 72 percent fewer fevers. They were also less likely to come down with a cough or runny nose. If they did get sick, they got better significantly sooner. They also missed fewer days of daycare.

Here’s the abstract of that study:

OBJECTIVE: Probiotic consumption effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration were evaluated in healthy children during the winter season.

METHODS: In this double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 326 eligible children (3–5 years of age) were assigned randomly to receive placebo (N = 104), Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM (N = 110), or L acidophilus NCFM in combination with Bifidobacterium animalis subsp lactis Bi-07 (N = 112). Children were treated twice daily for 6 months.

RESULTS: Relative to the placebo group, single and combination probiotics reduced fever incidence by 53.0% (P = .0085) and 72.7% (P = .0009), coughing incidence by 41.4% (P = .027) and 62.1% (P = .005), and rhinorrhea incidence by 28.2% (P = .68) and 58.8% (P = .03), respectively. Fever, coughing, and rhinorrhea duration was decreased significantly, relative to placebo, by 32% (single strain; P = .0023) and 48% (strain combination; P < .001). Antibiotic use incidence was reduced, relative to placebo, by 68.4% (single strain; P = .0002) and 84.2% (strain combination; P < .0001). Subjects receiving probiotic products had significant reductions in days absent from group child care, by 31.8% (single strain; P = .002) and 27.7% (strain combination; P < .001), compared with subjects receiving placebo treatment.

The probiotics were given as pills. Such large safe improvements are signs of a nutritional deficiency being remedied. It would be very hard to produce a drug that worked as well.

Thanks to Tom George.

4 Replies to “Probiotics Prevent Colds”

  1. Seth, I know you’re not practicing medicine here, but I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on the three (!) flu shots the government wants us all to get this fall. Do you plan to get them yourself, and why or why not? Do you know of any downsides to flu shots? (In prior years, I’ve always got the recommended flu shot. But after all I’ve been reading here about kombucha and other probiotics, I’m wondering if that’s necessary or desirable.)

  2. John, I do not get flu shots and for about ten years I’ve almost never had any obvious cold or flu symptoms either. I’m sure the reason is that I sleep really well so my body fights off the viruses. Before I started sleeping much better, I did get colds. This summer I’m believe I had either a cold or a flu — probably swine flu — but I barely noticed it. On one day I felt tired and for the next two weeks my legs were weaker than usual. So I believe that with (a) good sleep and (b) enough fermented food, your immune system will work well enough that when you get sick (infected), your body will fight off the infection so fast you won’t suffer.

  3. I can definitely believe that the supplement helped reduce the number and severity of the colds.

    If people only realized how much our diet has changed over the last few decades. We use to eat a variety of fermented foods. Every culture seemed to have a basic ferment – whether it was sauerkraut or yogurt or cheese or whatever. Food use to do what we now need to take probiotic supplements for – but if we returned to plenty of raw fruit and vegetables and some sort of fermented food on a regular basis, we wouldn’t need to.

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