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5 Reasons to Use Probiotics for Colds and Flu

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Do probiotics for colds and flu really work? We'll share five ways probiotics help, what they are, how they work to boost your immune system, and which ones are best.

three bottles of kombucha

Note: It takes time to build up the numbers of protective organisms in your digestive track. For best results, start taking live culture foods before cold and flu season gets into full swing.

5 Ways Probiotics for Colds and Flu Help

Studies have shown the effectiveness of probiotics. Benefits include:

  1. Fewer fevers
  2. Less coughs and runny noses
  3. Faster recovery
  4. Less antibiotic use
  5. Better quality of life

We'll share more details on the studies below, but first, let's review the basics of probiotics.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms similar to the “friendly” bacteria found naturally in the body's digestive tract. Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) of Maryland states that we each house two to five pounds (1.0 to 2.26 kilograms) of live bacteria inside our bodies.

On average, we have 10 bacteria cells for each single human cell. We are more bacteria than we are human – strange, but true. (This makes using all those antibacterial products sound like a bad idea, doesn't it?)

yogurt with active Lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria

How do probiotics work?

Antibiotics work by killing bacteria, both friendly and unfriendly. Probiotics add good bacteria to your body. Adding more probiotic bacteria can crowd out the bad bacteria, at at the very least make it more difficult for them to thrive. (This is the type of probiotic I use in addition to fermented foods.)

Using Probiotic Supplements for Colds and Flu

An 18 month study that examined the effect of probiotics Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium animalis on children aged 3 to 5 showed fewer symptoms, faster recovery time and less antibiotic use.

Specifically:

  • the Lactobacillus acidophilus group had 53% fewer fevers, 41% fewer coughs, and 28% fewer runny noses than the placebo group
  • the group given both bacteria strains had 72% fewer fevers, 62% fewer coughs, and 59% fewer runny noses than the placebo group
  • the Lactobacillus acidophilus group recovered from cold symptoms 32% faster and the two-bacteria group recovered 48% faster than the placebo group, when they did get sick, with less antibiotic use (68% and 84% less, respectively)

(Better results than the flu vaccine, and no side effects.)

In the article “Probiotics are secret weapon for fighting symptoms of the common cold in college students, study suggests” at Science Daily, they quote a study that tested a specific probiotic blend, which found:

“that while all students caught colds at roughly the same rate, the students who took the probiotic supplementation experienced: • A duration of colds that was two days shorter (four days vs. six days) • Symptoms that were 34% less severe and • A higher quality of life that resulted in fewer missed school days (15 vs. 34 missed by students taking the placebo).”

Using Naturally Fermented Foods for Colds and Flu

In the article “Probiotics and the Flu“, the National Kefir Association states:

Probiotic-containing foods like kefir are essential during cold and flu season for preventing offending molecules from entering the bloodstream and creating reactions that can cause symptoms of ill health.

South Africa-based Ingrid van Heerden, D.Sc, “DietDoc” for www.health24.com, says that probiotic containing foods like kefir are important for maintaining a strong natural defense system because they stimulate the production of immunoglobulin in the intestines, which improves the body's immune response.

A recent survey of kombucha drinkers indicated that 82% felt they had increased resistance to cold and flu. Learn how to brew kombucha at home here.

If you consider how much surface area there is in the digestive track (some estimates calculate that it forms up to 70% of the immune system), it makes sense that keeping it healthy helps to keep you healthy.

sauerkraut, kombucha and milk kefir for probiotics

Can I make probiotics at home?

Yes, you can make probiotics at home, and it's easy! I have instructions on the site for making:

Any naturally fermented product (live culture food) that is not heat treated (pasteurized) can introduce good bacteria into your body.

You can buy cultures to get started online, and you may be able to find them from friends (kefir grains and kombucha scobys may multiply when you brew). There are also online culture swap groups. Many vegetable ferments (such as kraut) can be started with just some salt, salt water, or salt and whey.

I am an affiliate for Kombucha Kamp, and I trust them to provide quality cultures, including scobys and kefir grains.

Shop Kombucha Kamp Cultures

Which Probiotics are Best?

If you purchase probiotics for colds and flu, make sure you look for live and active cultures. Read the label – you want good bacteria that are still frisky. Watch out for brands that are full of sugar and/or artificial ingredients. These work against your body’s ability to heal.

Fermenting at home can provide healthy foods for pennies on the dollar compared to store products. You can also “sneak” probiotics in for fussy eaters by making snacks such as probiotic smoothies.

If you are in the middle of an active cold with phlegm production, non-dairy probiotic options are probably a better choice.

Probiotics are not a “magic bullet” and there is no guarantee that you won't get sick. Adding live culture foods to your diet is just one thing you can do to stay healthy.

Remember to always wash your hands, cough into your elbow, and contact a trained health care provider in case of serious illness.

More Help for Cold and Flu Season

If you've found this post helpful, you may also enjoy other posts in the series, such as:

If you want to know more about making your own probiotics for colds and flu (or any time of year), check out The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fermenting Foods.

First published in 2014, last updated in 2019.

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17 Comments

  1. Thanks, Allison.

    Jeanette – I prefer kombucha, but my kids like water kefir better. It tends to have a milder flavor.

  2. I am definitely more of a water kefir person myself, but the hibiscus kombucha sounds pretty tempting indeed! I stopped over from Fat Tues!

  3. With a shorter brew time (1 week) and some creative flavoring, the kombucha can be very tasty indeed. 🙂

  4. The hibiscus kombucha sounds yummy! I've been making kombucha and yogurt. Almost all 7 of us eat some type of probiotic food daily. We've had a few colds come through the family this fall, and almost all of it was pretty minor.

    Now I'll go drink my kombucha!

  5. What a great post…I cannot tell you how many things I just learned from reading this.

    Thank you for all the info.

  6. Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. This was very interesting! Hope to see you next week!

    Be sure to visit RealFoodForager.com on Sunday for Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!

    http://realfoodforager.com/2011/10/fat-tuesday-october-18-2011/

    If you have grain-free recipes please visit my Grain-Free Linky Carnival in support of my 28 day grain-free challenge! It will be open until November 2.

    http://realfoodforager.com/2011/10/grain-free-real-food-linky-carnival/

  7. Treasures Evermore – be sure to stop in next weekend for the next installment.

    Jill – I always enjoy Fat Tuesday. Lots of great links.

    1. I certainly suspect it would, as it’s likely high in vitamin C and healing spices, as well as active cultures. At the I wrote the post, we hadn’t started making kimchi at home yet, so I didn’t hunt around for studies on it.

  8. Chlorophyll – the green blood of plants

    Surely each of us knows at least one of the many benefits of chlorophyll. However, in recent years, more and more has been said about the many advantages and benefits of using liquid chlorophyll. We want to devote the following article to a detailed description of liquid chlorophyll that is available on the market (it is offered by many different manufacturers).

    The benefits of chlorophyll were discovered many years ago. However, what chlorophyll is, what makes it unique, and what benefits can be derived from it is a very broad topic. We hope that after reading this article, you will be able to systematize your basic information about chlorophyll and its health benefits.

    What is chlorophyll?

    Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in plants. By absorbing solar energy, it conditions photosynthesis in plants. Chlorophyll is to them what blood is to humans. It is responsible in plants for metabolic functions such as growth and respiration.

    Interestingly, the chlorophyll molecule is very similar in chemical structure to hemoglobin, the red pigment of human blood. The only difference is in the different central atom. Chlorophyll has magnesium in the center and iron in hemoglobin. This fact, and the fact that chlorophyll is essential for plant metabolism, prompted scientists to investigate the potential benefits of chlorophyll on human health.

    Chlorophyll, like hemoglobin, has a great ability to combine with oxygen. Secondly, it absorbs toxins from cells very easily. In every part of the body, wherever it goes, as an ideal chelator, it always provides oxygen and takes with it waste products of metabolism that cells do not need. Chlorophyll therefore has particular benefits in diseases of the immune system, cancer and autoimmune diseases.

    The body cleansing process plays an important role in the following processes:

    – purification of blood, lymph and intracellular fluids,
    – elimination of drug residues
    – liver cleansing,
    – inactivation and elimination of carcinogenic substances (substances causing oncological diseases),
    – reducing the number of pathogenic bacteria, disinfects and detoxifies the body,
    – receiving toxins, heavy metals and free radicals from cells
    – maintaining the acid-base balance of the body.

    Additionally:

    – by regulating the work of the intestines, it helps to get rid of gases,
    – balances blood pressure and breathing,
    – disinfects wounds – kills bacteria in wounds,
    – it is important in cleansing the digestive and excretory tract,
    – removes bad breath and body odor.
    – relieves the problems of excess sugar in the blood.

    The first scientific data on chlorophyll was published in 1940 – but it was also a time to choke on antibiotics and their effects. Nevertheless, some scientists have conducted many years of research using chlorophyll in the treatment of dental diseases. Later, many studies appeared using chlorophyll in the treatment of e.g. pancreatitis, colorectal cancer, treatment of many infectious problems, etc.

    Research has shown that chlorophyll plays a very important role in many processes in the body, including regulating the work of the cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive and excretory systems.

    Thanks to the unique properties of chlorophyll, which is the activation of nitrogen transformation in the body, it has a strong antibacterial effect with high effectiveness both in light infections and colds as well as in strong and long-lasting inflammations, e.g. sinuses, skin or ulcers.

    The strong anti-inflammatory effect of chlorophyll is shown in:

    – counteracting inflammation: sore throat, pyoderma, gingivitis, inflammation and ulceration of the gastrointestinal mucosa,
    – preventing tooth decay and gum disease,
    – reducing the amount of catarrhal secretions,
    – treatment of any inflammatory skin conditions,
    – treatment of varicose veins,
    – relieving the symptoms of painful hemorrhoids.

    Chlorophyll – a green pigment found in most plants. It is the only substance in nature that stores sunlight, so it is essential for people who do not receive sunlight for any reason, e.g. office workers and residents of large cities, people tired and stressed.

    An acidified body is a sick body!

    According to prof. Ragnar Berg, an American nutrition expert, maintaining health depends on a daily diet. It should consist of 20% acidic foods and 80% alkaline foods. In a healthy body, the pH factor should be in the range of 7.3-7.4, which corresponds to an alkaline pH. A diet rich in acidic foods (meat, carbohydrates – from sweets, highly processed foods), in the long run, increasing the acidity of our body (acidifying it), causing disorders, inflammation, including heart disease, arthritis, higher blood pressure, strokes, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.

    To maintain the acid-base balance at the level of 7.35, a person must consume alkaline-rich foods, such as vegetables, fruit, shoots and sprouts, fruit in the shell, still mineral water, herbal teas. Unfortunately, the rush of life and contaminated food often prevent us from maintaining a healthy diet. To take care of our health, chlorophyll supplementation is necessary to balance our bad diet. According to scientists, the most beneficial for our body is chlorophyll in liquid form.

    The chlorophyll in liquid obtained from alfalfa is especially valuable because alfalfa is one of the best sources of protein, chlorophyll, carotene, vitamin A (retinol), vitamins D, E, B6, K and several digestive enzymes. Due to a deep root system that allows for good absorption of minerals, alfalfa is a good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, potassium and trace elements.

    It is recommended to use one teaspoon of liquid chlorophyll in a glass of water or other drink, drink it 2 to 3 times a day with meals.

    This dosage of Chlorophyll plays an important role in the processes of restoring balance in the body, nutrition and regeneration of the body:

    – supports the regeneration of red blood cells,
    – improves the work of the thyroid gland and pancreas,
    – prevents kidney stones,
    – increases the body’s resistance,
    – accelerates the wound healing process,
    – accelerates the healing of ulcers,
    – supports the development of a beneficial intestinal bacterial flora,
    – activates enzymes to produce vitamins E, A, and K,
    – provides oxygen to the brain and every cell of the body,
    – improves the secretion of milk in nursing mothers,
    – has a positive effect on lymphatic organs,
    – strengthens the vascular system,
    – supports the treatment of diabetes,
    – relieves the symptoms of asthma,
    – helps with anemia,
    – can prevent pathological changes in DNA molecules,
    – it can block the first stage of turning healthy cells into cancerous ones and prevent cancer,
    – stimulates the oxidation process and stimulates the regeneration of cells in the body, thus preventing premature aging and arteriosclerosis,
    – renews tissues (catalyzes cell renewal), rejuvenates the skin and helps to keep the body youthful,
    – controls skin problems by eliminating free radicals,
    – protects against harmful radiation,
    – soothes the nervous state and reduces anxiety,
    – Adds energy.

    Products containing large amounts of chlorophyll:
    Young barley
    Chlorella in tablets
    Spirulina

    You just need to eat more green vegetables during the day to keep your body fit.

    Eating healthy then we are not threatened by any corona viruses, or the like. I am a vegetarian and for over 6 years I have not had any colds, viruses or allergies. Not even for dust. A few years ago, Lyme disease forced me to change my diet, because drug treatment helped only a little. Lyme disease was just slowly taking away my vital functions – killing slowly but truly. Only the change of nutrition did wonders.
    My daughter is also a vegetarian. All the children in her class are sick, and illnesses avoid her.
    We are simply a living example of healthy eating. No chemicals, pills or vaccinations. Just vegetables.

    PS. Information for everyone.
    Please read my information again. You will save your life and family.
    One more thing. Natural antibiotics include turmeric, ginger, and garlic, plus cloves. Natural probiotics include natural yoghurt, cooked barley porridge (its water too), sauerkraut and pickled cucumbers (in salt brine with appropriately selected herbs). Just nature itself.

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