Probiotics Can Reduce Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

Probiotics' Role in Reducing Upper Respiratory Infections

Practice Points

  • As we journey towards winter, now is the time to invest in enhancing microbiome health to support our immune system.
  • Winter increases susceptibility to infections: Cold temperatures and reduced sunlight in winter contribute to increased susceptibility to upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs).
  • Microbiome and immunity connection: A healthy microbiome, especially in the gut, is crucial for robust immune function, impacting not only URTIs but also COVID-19 severity.
  • Probiotics for immune support: Probiotics can be beneficial in reducing the incidence and duration of URTIs, particularly multi-strain formulations containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
  • Key nutrients for respiratory health: Alongside probiotics, nutrients like zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, and quercetin play essential roles in supporting the immune system against respiratory viruses.

Upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), such as the common cold, are the primary cause of illness annually1, with adults experiencing approximately 2-4 colds per year, and children between 5-10 colds.2 Due to their highly infectious nature, and the often-debilitating symptoms of nasal congestion, cough, and sore throat, URTIs are responsible for significant absenteeism from both work and school.1

It is well known that winter is the season of coughs and colds, with the likelihood of getting sick increasing as temperatures drop, due to a variety of factors such as spending more time indoors with others3, and decreased vitamin D levels from reduced sunlight exposure.4 Interestingly, cold temperatures can also lower immunity in the nose, increasing susceptibility to viruses.5 A recent study found that a drop of just 5 degrees Celsius in the tissue temperature of the nasal passage reduces the efficacy of the immune response that takes place inside the nose by almost 50%.5

Building a vital and robust immune system is key not only to help prevent infections, but to also ensure the body has the resources available to recover efficiently and effectively from an infection when the challenge arises. An area of growing interest is the link between the microbiome and immune system health, and the supportive role of probiotics in enhancing both.

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