We know a lot about probiotics, especially how they figure in gastrointestinal and allergic diseases.
Less is known about a role for probiotics in respiratory tract infections. Some data confirm that certain strains may prevent or alleviate symptoms while others find no such benefit.
Researchers in Milan did their homework.
A meta-analysis involving 3,451 infants, children and adults, found that probiotics were more beneficial than placebo. They were thought to accomplish this in several ways:
- Preventing infection in the first place
- Reducing numbers of acute infections
- Reducing antibiotic use
Another look at 7 trials, this time using only infants and children, found similar results which are included in the link below.
The excellent review by the Italian researchers and published this month in BMC Infectious Diseases summarizes the various studies. It also suggests that children who have the most upper respiratory infections would most likely benefit the most.
The authors conclude:
“Selection of the most beneficial probiotic strain, the dose and timing of supplementation still need to be determined and further study of gastrointestinal-respiratory interactions will yield important insights into the pathogenesis of pulmonary diseases, including cystic fibrosis, respiratory disease of the newborn, and asthma, and improve our knowledge in the prophylactic role of probiotics in children affected by recurrent upper respiratory tract infections.”
Until then, fill your family’s menus with lots of probiotic-rich foods. Think fermentation.