Another flu season, another suggestion about how to best prevent and treat the viral infection everyone dreads catching every year. Have you heard of taking probiotics for flu?
You may be ingesting probiotics without even being aware of it, but there’s no need to worry. The discussion around probiotics has grown exponentially in the medical field over the last several years, as many people have made probiotics a part of their daily lives.
Probiotics can be useful, but do they really protect against the flu? We break down everything you need to know about these microorganisms below.
What are Probiotics for Flu?
Oral probiotics are healthy bacteria mostly known for their positive impact on digestive health. You can take probiotics in supplement form (pills, powders, mouthwashes) or by consuming probiotic-rich foods and drinks.
Take note of the fact that probiotic supplements are more highly concentrated than probiotic-rich foods and drinks, which are just foods that are enriched or fermented. Fermentation means foods have gone through a process where carbohydrates are converted to alcohol or organic acids using yeast or bacteria. The following food and drink are examples of Lactobacillus (bacteria found in fermented foods) and Bifidobacterium (bacteria found in some dairy) probiotics:
-Soft cheeses (feta, brie, ricotta, camembert, goat cheese, etc.)
-Kefir (fermented milk drink)
-Miso and tempeh (fermented soybeans)
-Kimchi (fermented vegetables)
Do Oral Probiotics Help Protect Against the Flu?
When our bodies lose good bacteria, either from leading a generally unhealthy lifestyle or battling serious viral infections like the flu with antibiotics, probiotics help to replace it. However, like any supplements or diet-specific foods, we must be aware of what we are putting into our bodies and how our bodies react to them. While the FDA does regulate our food, it does not regulate or approve of probiotic supplements.
There is no scientific proof that probiotics can prevent viral infections. And like anything else we introduce to our bodies for the first time, there can oftentimes be side effects. If taken too frequently or in too large of doses, probiotics can cause allergic reactions, upset stomach, diarrhea, headaches, heightened risk of infection and more especially in children, seniors and pregnant women. Probiotics can even inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. We always recommend consulting with your doctor before introducing probiotic supplements and foods into your daily life.
While introducing probiotics to your body ahead of flu season can help ease symptoms should you catch the flu, they should in no way replace the flu shot. According to the CDC, “recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine.”
How To Prevent The Flu
The bottom line is: get your flu shot.
For tips on the most effective ways to prevent the flu, warning signs of flu-like symptoms, and what you can do in your daily life to decrease your risk of getting the flu, download our Flu Guide, today. If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, please make an appointment with your doctor immediately.