Probiotics are live bacteria that provide numerous health benefits and have been proven to fight respiratory viruses.
Ordinarily, when we hear the word “bacteria,” we automatically run for the door, due to perceived fear that it will make us sick.
However, our bodies contain many different types of bacteria. Some of them are unhealthy and can harm us, while some are needed and are essential for a healthy gut, immune system, and overall health.
Probiotics are the good guys. They fight off the harmful bacteria that accumulate in our bodies and throw off our entire equilibrium of well-being.
The objective is always to keep your body balanced with the right bacteria (probiotics), and not allow the harmful bacteria to take control.
As we age, it becomes even harder because our good bacteria naturally decreases. So we must add probiotic foods or supplements to our diets to help us maintain good health.
Probiotics may be bought in a supplemental form, or you can find plenty in natural foods.
What Are The Main Groups Of Probiotics?
There are numerous probiotics, but the main two are:
- Lactobacillus – You can get this from yogurt and fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, mozzarella cheese. It can help with respiratory infections, IBS, eczema, and more.
- Bifidobacterium – this probiotic can also be found in some types of dairy products. It is particularly beneficial in reducing yeasts and molds; it also helps with IBS, infections, helps regulate cholesterol, decreases dental caries, and more.
This article will concentrate on these two probiotics because they have the most potent antiviral activity against respiratory viruses.
Foods That Contain Probiotics
Fermented Fruits And Vegetable
- Cucumber, sour pickles, olives, beets, turnips, sauerkraut, peaches, cranberries
Fermented Dairy Products
- Aged cheese (Mozzarella, bleu, cheddar, Gouda), yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, uncultured buttermilk, cultured butter, kefir, sour cream
- Sourdough bread
Fermented Non-Dairy Beverages
- Kombucha, water kefir, ginger ale
- Fermented soybean products
- Soy sauce, miso, tempeh, natto, tamari, tempeh, soy sauce
Note: Probiotic foods or supplements should be kept refrigerated. Otherwise, the active cultures and live bacteria in them will not survive long.
Can Probiotics Prevent And Treat Respiratory Viruses?
It’s has been proven that probiotics can support your immune system by inhibiting and regulating the harmful bacteria in your gut.
As will be explained below, they enhance the natural antibodies that fight off diseases and boost your T cells.
Scientific studies have proven that probiotics can help prevent respiratory infections, and if you do get sick, they can speed the healing process. Let’s get to the evidence.
There is evidence that has proven through a 3-stage, randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study that probiotics clearly do help fight respiratory viruses.
The 3-stage study was conducted in three different winters between 2003-2007. In all three stages healthy people were used.
The following probiotics and compounds were used:
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Lactoferrin (A protein found in colostrum)
- Prebiotics – (Fructooligosaccharide (FOS) and galactooligosaccharides (GOS) )
Stage 1 – 2003/2004 Study
In this study, 237 people were used. They were broken down into two groups. One was given a formula containing three probiotic strains and FOS (An alternative sweetener) and the other was given a placebo.
The results showed that respiratory infections in the group that was given probiotics decreased dramatically.
As you can see from the rest of the study, stages two and three produced the same results.
The study ultimately determined that regular and daily use of probiotics can reduce the risk and severity of respiratory infections.
How Can Probiotics (Bacteria) Possibly Fight Respiratory Viruses?
Numerous viruses cause respiratory infections. Here is a list of the major ones:
- rhinoviruses (common cold)
- flu viruses
- coronaviruses (common cold, MERS, SARS, COVID-19)
- parainfluenza viruses,
- respiratory syncytial viruses
When ingested, probiotic bacteria have a way to balance the “symbiotic bacterial flora” (able to work together with other organisms) in the gut.
When this friendly interaction occurs, it continually produces particular enzymes called “nucleolytic enzymes (AKA – nucleases).” These nucleases are found in your blood and lymph throughout the body.
In essence, nucleolytic enzymes blow up the outer shells, ultimately destroying the viruses.
Probiotics have also been shown to (1):
- Stop a virus from attaching itself to receptors found on your healthy cells, particularly in your respiratory tract.
- Stop a virus from replicating itself.
- They can produce antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). AMPs are the first molecules to be made by the immune system to protect and defend you from harmful pathogens.
- They can modulate epithelial cells; Epithelial cell inflammation has been one of the main reasons COVID-19 patients are dying.
- They can regulate CD4+ CD8+ T cells. For example, these cells are responsible for immune system memory to a particular virus, so you are protected the second time around. They help stop a cytokine storm. Many people have been getting very sick or dying from COVID-19 due to this cytokine storm.
- Probiotics can help modulate Natural killer (NK) cells. NK cells are a type of white blood cell that scavenges and kills viruses.
- They can help your body make immunoglobulins (antibodies) such as IgA and IgG to help destroy a virus. IgA is found in your respiratory and digestive systems. And IgG is found throughout your body.
- They activate dendritic cells. These cells are found in all your body tissues. When they detect something wrong, they send a warning message to your T cells. They also help to modify your immune response.
A study published in February 2018 announced that probiotics stimulate both innate and acquired (adaptive) immune systems.
In other words, the probiotics will assist your immune system as soon as the infection enters your body (Innate). Then it will provide a memory so the immune system will recognize and kill it if it encounters that same infection again (Adaptive).
The study further stated that if you were to get a respiratory infection, probiotics could lessen its severity.
Probiotic Strains Proven To Treat Or Prevent Respiratory Viruses
Some of the impressive strains of probiotics that were shown to prevent or treat a cold, flu, or other respiratory infections were:
Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus OLL1073R-1 (R-1)
- One study showed that eating fermented yogurt that contained R-1 increased NK cells’ action and lessened the risk of catching a cold in older people.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
- It decreases the chances of catching a cold and also lessen their severity once you get one.
Lactobacillus plantarum L-137
- Notable reduction in the occurrence of upper respiratory tract infections.
Lactococcus lactis JCM5805 (L. lactis plasma)
- Meaningfully reduced the risk of getting sick from the common cold.
- A modest decrease in the aggregate amount of days of having a cough, sore throat, and fever due to the flu.
- Notable declines in both the incidence rate and the increasing incidence rate of the flu in school children.
- It caused an antiviral immune response to the flu virus, and a notable boost the antibody IgA found in saliva.
Bifidobacterium longum (B. longum) BB536
- This probiotic exhibited antiviral activity after oral administration for two weeks before infection. (1)
Evidence from scientific studies shows that probiotic bacteria can stop respiratory viruses from attaching themselves to the epithelial cells of your respiratory tract.
The first thing a virus does is to try to enter through receptors found on your cells. If this can be blocked, you will not get sick. Probiotics appear to have the ability to bind to the viruses and block this entry.
Can Probiotics Help With COVID-19?
As the world is presently fully aware, COVID-19 currently is an ongoing pandemic, and it appears that it is not slowing down but picking up steam, as of August 14, 2020.
Probiotics have been suggested for use by scientists to help slow down COVID-19’s progression.
In one study, published on May 8, 2020, the scientists announced that there is clinical data to support the use of probiotics to prevent COVI-19.
They provided a list of particular probiotic strains that may help in the pandemic. However, they did emphasize that none of the strains have been tested or proven to be effective against COVID-19. Here is the list:
Lactobacillus casei DN-114 001
- Found in Dan Active/Actimel Fermented drinks, Danone
- Shortened number and duration of respiratory tract infections
- Consume it once-daily during the pandemic
Lactobacillus gasseri PA 16/8, Bifidobacterium longum SP 07/3, and B. bifidum MF 20/5;
- Reduces the time and severity of the flu
- Consume it once-daily during the pandemic
Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
- Essential for digestive health and gut barrier integrity, and prevents viral respiratory tract infections.
- One capsule daily for duration of the pandemic
Lactobacillus plantarum DR7
- Can inhibit upper respiratory tract infections
- Helps regulate the immune system
- Consume 2 g sachet per day during the pandemic
Bifidobacterium breve Yakult, and Lactobacillus casei Shirota
- available as fermented drinks
- Can reduce the frequency of ventilator-associated pneumonia
- Take one-daily during the pandemic
Bifidobacterium longum BB536
- Boosts your innate immune system
- It can prevent the flu.
- Consume it once-daily during the pandemic
Pediococcus pentosaceus 5-33:3, Leuconostoc mesenteroides 32-77:1, L. paracasei ssp. paracasei 19, L. plantarum 2,362 plus inulin, oat bran, pectin, and resistant starch (A formula of different probiotics)
- When this formula was given to the acutely ill and people on ventilators, it lessened the severity of infections and reduced the length of time patients were kept on ventilators and in the intensive care unit
- Recommended for COVID-19 patients
The study explained that since COVID-19 can also cause gastrointestinal symptoms and past evidence has shown that there is a gut-lung connection where immune interactions between the two can determine the course of respiratory infections. “It is feasible that orally administered probiotic strains could further influence this gut-lung axis.“
What Are The Best Natural Probiotic Foods?
My personal recommendation is an Icelandic yogurt called “Skyr.” (1)
Skyr is a dairy product, so it should not be used for people that are lactose intolerant.
This thick yogurt has an abundance of different live active bacteria that can boost gut health.
It is also extremely low in fat and sodium and high in protein. The plain flavored one has very low sugar.
My recommendation is sauerkraut. This particular food may arguably have more probiotic strains than any other food.
In studies, sauerkraut was shown to possess up to 28 different strains of probiotics.
There are many great probiotic supplements out there. I will provide you with a link to get you started on your quest. Please click here.
Chocolate Can Protect Probiotic Delivery
Whatever probiotics you decide to take, be it food or supplement, you should consume it together with chocolate. I would preferably suggest dark chocolate because it is much healthier and protects the probiotics up to 91%.
Chocolate has been shown to protect probiotics when ingested together, making it easier for them to pass through the small intestines and stomach unscathed and ultimately help them reach the colon.
Respiratory viruses cause the most disease throughout the world. Scientists are doing everything they can to figure out how to stop them.
Presently, the only effective treatments available for use are vaccines and antivirals for the flu and the adenovirus. For all other respiratory viruses, there is no therapeutic method to help control or stop them.
The research on probiotics shows that they can help against these viruses. Many probiotic foods are affordable. Including them in your daily diet regimen can only benefit you.
Please consult with your medical provider to determine if probiotics are safe for you to take.