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Research continues to show that probiotics promote immune health. In particular, they have been found to have a beneficial effect on upper respiratory tract infections, which include cold and flu. Up to 80 percent of your immune system resides in the gut, so it’s not surprising that gut bacteria play a major role in immune health. A recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition is adding to the rapidly growing body of research on this topic.

In the study, 57 children aged three to five were given a probiotic formula containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains (two L. acidophilus strains, B. bifidum, and B. lactis at a total dose of 12.5 billion colony forming units) along with 50 mg of vitamin C or placebo daily for six months. Those children taking the probiotic plus vitamin C experienced a 33 percent reduction in the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections as well as a 30 percent decrease in the number of school absences. They also had fewer unscheduled visits to the doctor, less antibiotic treatment, and reduced number of days that cough medicine was used.

Vitamin C has well-known effects on immune health, and so likely complemented the effects of the probiotics. Young children experience up to 12 colds per year, a number parents would love to see go down. In addition to proper hand washing, and a healthy diet, children may benefit from probiotic supplementation to protect them from cold and flu.