After fighting an infection you could find friendly bacteria puts you on the road to good health

If you’ve suffered from poor health in the past your immune system could be left in a weakened state. If this is the case, your body could be an easy target for bacteria and viruses such as the flu.

Eating a balanced diet that contains a range of essential vitamins and minerals is an important step in building up your immune system, and supplements, such as probiotics, could give your body a much needed boost.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are micro-organisms, such as bacteria or yeast, which are found naturally in the body. Commonly referred to as “good bacteria”, they are essentially the body’s own antibiotics and play a big part in maintaining and improving your health.

Probiotics strengthen the immune system by producing more antibodies and antioxidants. This helps the body to ward off attacks from viruses and bacteria and lessens symptoms for illnesses such as colds and flu.

There are a number of sources of probiotics that we could include in our diet. “Some of the most common sources are yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir (a fermented milk drink) and green olives, as well as other fermented and cultured foods,” explains Zoe Copsey, Head of Nutrition at Lomax Bespoke Fitness, Nutrition and Wellbeing.

Probiotics can also be taken in supplement form which is advised for older people with weaker immune systems (a natural occurrence of ageing), immune-deficient people and in autumn and winter when viral infections are at their highest. People with food intolerances may also wish to take probiotics as a supplement.

 Not just for good guts

Early studies of probiotics centred on the benefits to stomach and intestinal health, as probiotics help to balance the levels of good and bad bacteria in the gut.

However, a number of clinical studies have discovered people who consume probiotic supplements and foods high in friendly bacteria are significantly less prone to colds, flu and infections. A detailed study by the Sichuan University in China found probiotics helped stave off colds and the need for antibiotics to treat them. The study also found probiotics helped lessen cold and flu-like symptoms.

Another study published by the Public Library of Science showed probiotics could reduce inflammation, a major factor in chronic diseases like colds and flu. Reduced inflammation, in turn, could help prevent serious respiratory complications from flu.

Be pro, not anti

There is no magic cure for colds and flu, but the well-trodden ‘cures’ of rest and lots of fluids still apply. However, taking a preventative approach is always better and it doesn’t come easier than a daily intake of probiotics.