During winter, the common cold strikes 930,000 Britons on average. We probably catch more colds during this season because we spend much more time indoors, in close proximity. New Year’s Eve parties, January sales and family gatherings mean that we’re coming into physical contact with more people, leaving us susceptible to catching and spreading the common cold.
While there is still no cure for the common cold, a recent analysis has found evidence for taking probiotics as a way of preventing the risk of infection (1). It seems that probiotics may improve health by regulating immune function.
The systematic review, conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration, analysed 10 studies involving 3451 participants. The study examined the evidence for probiotics as a way to prevent upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs).
In studies where probiotics were taken for more than a week, probiotics reduced the number of individuals who had at least one acute upper respiratory tract infection by 42%.
Side effects reported were minor, such as digestive discomfort, and were not any more common in those taking probiotics than in the control groups.
Probiotics may support the immune system by bolstering the health of the gut wall and boosting activity of phagocytes, white blood cells that fight infection.
When choosing a probiotic supplement, be sure to opt for one that uses well-researched strains. It is important that the probiotic strain that you use is capable both of surviving stomach acidity and ‘sticking’ to the gut lining.
I often recommend Optibac ‘For daily wellbeing EXTRA strength’ as this contains one of the most well researched strains, L. acidophilus NCFM. It is also FOS free, which can be useful for those who are worried about side effects such as bloating. Udo’s Choice Super 8 Probiotic also provides the strain L. acidophilus NCFM at an effective dosage.
Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC
(1.) Hao Q, Lu Z, Dong BR, Huang CQ, Wu T. Probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Sep 7