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Could Probiotics Become Our Next Weapon Against the Flu?

Usually, when we talk about the human microbiome and bolstering it with probiotics, we’re talking about the beneficial bacteria that coexist in our digestive system. But, actually, our personal bacteria populations are nearly everywhere in and on our bodies. Even in our respiratory system — including our nasal passages, throat and lungs. 

Recently, researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor set out to see if differences in a person’s respiratory microbiome could be related to his or her susceptibility to catching the flu. 

We’re in the midst of a serious flu season, so this seems particularly timely. Indeed, WebMD reports that the 2019/2020 flu season is on track to be one of the worst in decades. CDC statistics indicate that 2,900 people have already died from the flu this winter and we’ve still got weeks of potential illness to go.

According to the scientists from the University of Michigan, who published their work in the journal PLOS ONE, individuals with a certain type of bacterial community in their respiratory tracts seem to be less likely to get the flu. And, this mixture of bacteria is more common in adults than in children — which may help explain why the flu can be more common and severe in children. 

Finding this potential link between the respiratory microbiome and the flu may mean that (someday) specific probiotics could be developed as a way to help prevent flu. We’re not there yet, of course. So, in the meantime, remember to stick to tried and true flu season recommendations:

  • Get your flu shot.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow. 
  • Repeat. 

If you get the flu or a cold that transitions into a more serious condition requiring antibiotic treatment, remember that a probiotic like Florajen Digestion can help ease unpleasant side effects like antibiotic-associated diarrhea and other digestive upset. According to research in the Journal of the American Medical Association, people taking antibiotics concomitantly with probiotics are 42% less likely to develop diarrhea.

For best results, take Florajen at least 1 to 2 hours before or after your antibiotic prescription – this timing will help both your antibiotic and your probiotic have maximum efficacy without affecting one another.

If possible, continue taking your probiotic daily for at least two weeks after your course of antibiotics is completed. This can help combat any lasting effects on your gut from the antibiotics and allow your microflora to bounce back.

You may also consider adding a probiotic to your daily wellness regimen for help with digestion, women’s health, and general or children’s well-being. Harvard Medical School reports that probiotics are generally considered safe and to have no side effects. If there are side effects, they’re usually very mild (like a little more gas than usual) and should cease after a couple weeks of consistent use. For most people in good health, WebMD says probiotics won’t cause any issues; however, people who have an immune deficiency, are critically ill, recently had surgery, or are being treated for cancer should consult their doctor before using probiotics. Also be sure to talk to a pediatrician before giving probiotics to your baby, especially if he or she is sick. Florajen Kids, for example, is recommended for children over 6 months of age.

Looking for Florajen? We keep our probiotics refrigerated for freshness and potency. Just ask for them, no prescription necessary, at the pharmacy counter!

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.