Probiotics for boosting immune system

A recent study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine has suggested that probiotics could enhance immune function in endurance athletes.

If you?re training hard and upping your mileage, a little help to improve your resistance to infection is most welcome.

The evidence

This research conducted at the Australian Institute of Sport looked at the effect of a probiotic supplement containing lactobacillus fermentum on performance and immune function.

Twenty subjects were supplemented with a daily probiotic or placebo capsule for one month, each subject undergoing both conditions in an unknown order with a month between each condition where no supplement was taken.

Athletic performance was assessed using a treadmill with blood samples being taken at regular intervals to measure the immune response. The length and severity of respiratory tract infections was recorded by the subjects themselves.

The researchers reported no difference in running performance as a result of the placebo or probiotics. Symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections, however, halved when the athletes took a probiotic. The severity of symptoms of URTI was also less when receiving probiotics.

Layman lowdown

This study adds to a body of evidence showing health benefits from quality probiotics. Previous research has linked the daily use of probiotics to improved intestinal health and immune system stimulation. They are not, however, recommended for those suffering with severe conditions such as acute pancreatitis.

CW says

Before you rush to buy a yoghurt probiotic drink, consider that the results in this study were found with the probiotic lactobacillus fermentum. This is rarely available in commercial products as it is a relatively new-to-market bacterial strain.

Look for a dose of six capsules split across the day, each containing 10 billion bacteria, to mimic the study protocol. This will provide significantly more than in a commercial yoghurt drink.