Americans are continually looking for natural ways to improve health, and probiotics are proving to be a valuable asset. Probiotics are “good” bacteria that can be found in the digestive tract.  They help to destroy “bad” or harmful bacteria - keeping unwanted parasites, viruses and yeasts in check.  Studies have shown that probiotics can help fight infection in a variety of ways.


Here are a few examples:

  • Research conducted in France showed that some types of bifidobacterium can reduce harmful bacteria and destroy certain strains of salmonella.
  • A study in Germany showed that subjects given a probiotic supplement over the course of three months reduced the duration of colds by an average of two days.
  • Researchers in China separated children aged three to five who were attending daycare into three groups:  the first group received Lactobacillus acidophilus - bacteria commonly found in yogurt and other foods; the second group received a combination of this and Bifidobacterium; and the third group received a placebo.  The children receiving both forms of probiotics experienced a significant reduction in cold symptoms across the board:  rates of fever were reduced by 73 percent, there was a 62 percent reduction in coughing, and runny noses were diminished by 60 percent.  This group also experienced cold symptoms for an average of 3.4 days as compared to 6.5 days for the placebo group.
  • A review paper in 2011 looked at research on probiotics and their effects on immune response-related disease.  It was concluded that they show treatment potential for allergy, eczema and viral infection.  In fact, new research shows that probiotics may help keep wounds clear of infection.  Applied to infected wounds, probiotics appeared to block Staphylococcus aureus bacteria from binding to human cells.


Some experts believe that immunity may be affected by modern lifestyle changes which include increased use of antibiotics and modifications to the daily diet.  Because antibiotics often destroy good bacteria along with bad bacteria, their use can have a detrimental effect on the immune system.  That is why many doctors now recommend probiotic supplements along with prescriptions of antibiotics.

When it comes to the daily diet, whole grains and fresh produce have been replaced with high-sugar and processed foods lacking in the fiber that good bacteria need to thrive.  It has been shown that in the colon, probiotics produce healthful fatty acids from the cell walls of fruits and vegetables which can keep immune cells functioning at an optimum level.  Therefore, a decline in healthy bacteria results in a reduction of key fatty acids which may be harmful to the health.


Probiotics can be added to the daily diet in a couple of ways:  

  1. If shopping for foods, look for products that contain lactobacillus, bifidobacterium and streptococcus thermophilus.  These healthy probiotics can be found in some types of yogurt, sour cream, miso, tempeh and kefir.
  2. Probiotics can also be consumed in the form of supplements available through your local health food store and natural supplement websites.