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A healthy dose of “good” gut bacteria may do more than keep digestive ailments at bay. A study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that athletes who took a probiotic supplement during the winter had fewer colds and other upper respiratory tract infections.
The study included 84 people who were training an average of ten hours per week in endurance sports such as cycling, running, swimming, triathlon, team games, and racquet sports. They were divided into two groups: a probiotic group and a placebo group.
The probiotic group received 65 ml (about 2 ounces) of a dairy-based probiotic supplement containing at least 6.5 billion cells of a strain of lactic acid bacteria known as Shirota. The placebo group received a dairy-based drink with no probiotic, twice daily for 16 weeks (mostly in the winter). The athletes kept track of any upper respiratory symptoms throughout the study, and markers of immune function were measured in saliva and blood samples taken at the beginning, middle, and end of the study.
The placebo group received a dairy-based drink with no probiotic, twice daily for 16 weeks (mostly in the winter). The athletes kept track of any upper respiratory symptoms throughout the study, and markers of immune function were measured in saliva and blood samples taken at the beginning, middle, and end of the study.
At the end of the study:
“These positive clinical consequences provide evidence for the beneficial effects of daily Lactobacillus casei Shirota ingestion in…highly physically active people,” the study’s authors said. They further proposed that L. casei Shirota might prevent infections by strengthening the general immune response.
Lactic acid bacteria, including Lactobacillus species, are a small but important part of the gut ecosystem. There are at least 125 known species of lactobacilli, and many of them have been studied for their positive effects on health. Here are some ways to support healthy Lactobacillus colonies in your gut:
(Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2011;21:55–64)