are surprised to learn that bacteria can be their friend during the cold
and flu season.
When the immune
system is weakened, a person is more susceptible to infections, whether
they take the form of a virus-as with colds and flu-bacteria, fungus or
yeast infection. Recent research suggests that one way to boost your
immunity may be to include "friendly bacteria" in your daily diet.
Probiotics are the
"friendly bacteria" provided by yogurt, other fermented foods and drinks
or dietary supplements. Previously it was known that these bacteria
could support gastrointestinal (GI) health by blocking and killing germs
in the colon and were shown to shorten the duration of diarrhea,
particularly the kind produced by rotavirus, common in infants and very
believe probiotics may enhance the immune system by stimulating the
production and activity of immune cells located in the tissues that line
the GI tract, as well as the mouth, respiratory system and urinary
tract. These are known as the "mucosal tissues."
It's believed that
up to 70 percent of the body's immune capacity may reside in these
tissues. Taken altogether this is called the "mucosal immune system." It
acts as a front-line defense against a wide variety of germs.
have observed that women taking probiotics recovered more quickly from
vaginal infections, and infants given probiotics had a lower rate of
urinary tract infections.
In an animal study,
a strain of bacteria called Lactobacillus acidophilus L10 helped speed
recovery from an oral infection caused by a common yeast. Preliminary
results from another study suggest that it may be effective against a
viral infection associated with fatigue and sore throat.
A study in patients
carrying potentially harmful bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus,
Streptococcus pneumoniae and Hemophilus influenzae, demonstrated that
regular intake of probiotics reduced the occurrence of these germs in
the upper respiratory tract.
addition to normal precautions against catching a cold or the flu-such
as washing your hands frequently, getting enough rest, taking your
vitamins, and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables-adding probiotics
to your daily diet or dietary supplement regimen may give your body an
extra line of defense.