The COVID -19 pandemic is holding the world to ransom since there is no known treatment. What is known however, is that the corona virus affects different people differently and individuals respond differently to the infection. A study in Australia points to the fact that a strong immune system can help fight the disease and even change the way the COVID-19 affects people. You can build a strong immune system by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly along with consuming immunity boosting nutrients. Since there is no specific cure for COVID -19 most people are looking to build their immunity with the help of supplements like probiotics. There are a several different varieties of probiotics and each set of probiotics provides a different health benefit and not all probiotics provide the same benefit.
Probiotics can prevent respiratory infections
Probiotics are microbes that are recognised as supporting general immunity and improving digestive health. Probiotics have also been effectivein the treatment and prevention of viral infections. The Gut Microbiota and Probiotic Science Foundation (India) has given insights about the role probiotics can play in boosting immunity against COVID-19 pandemic as probiotics are also useful in preventing respiratory infections. Probiotics have the ability to increase the level of antibodies in the mucosal linings which prove helpful in fighting against viral infections. Another study from Cochrane also suggests that use of probiotics can prevent people from contracting upper respiratory tract infections. However, you need to be aware there are many different types of probiotics and each probiotic strain provides a different benefit and fulfils a different need. Therefore, it is important to identify which strains of probiotics will help in building immunity or preventing infections. For instance, probiotics like Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium longum and Lactobacillus casei have been identified as immunity boosters that also reduce upper respiratory tract infections or common cold and flu.
Probiotics build immunity in the intestines
Scientific data suggests that probiotics taken to improve the health of the intestines can also build immunity. This is because almost 70 percent of the immunity in the body is in the intestines which has over 1000 different types of bacteria that build immunity. Probiotics are also a form of bacteria that protect the intestinal lining and prevent harmful pathogens and toxins from entering the blood. There are some international health agencies that are using probiotics along with other treatment in patients with COVID-19 infection for improving the balance of the intestinal flora.Administering probiotics to COVID-19 patients could bring about better outcomes in such patients but there is no surety as yet about the clear benefits of probiotics in these patients.
What is clear is that immunity comes from the intestines depending on what bacteria are present there. Therefore, bringing about a balance in the intestinal flora, through the use of specific probiotic microbes and strengthening the immune system, could help to fight against the complications of COVID-19.While providing probiotics to COVID-19 patients is useful, it is also important to understand that they are not a cure-all but an aid that can help fight lung problems by strengthening the immune system.
Probiotics used for COVID-19 patients
There is ongoing research which suggests that there is a link between the gut microbiota and health of the lungs. This “gut-lung axis” means that if there is any inflammation in the lungs it can affect the microbiota in the intestines as well. On the other hand, a healthy gut builds a strong immune system that can prove helpful in fighting infections like coronavirus. The link between the intestine and COVID-19 becomes apparent from the fact that some patients who suffered from COVID-19 also showed poor intestinal health and suffered from loss of taste and diarrhoea. The reason why some patients are being administered probiotics along with other medication, when being treated for COVID-19 infection,is because probiotics could help improve the balance of the intestinal microbiota and reduce any secondary infections.
It is well known that probiotics are being effectively used to prevent and treat general virus infections. There are several strains of probiotics that improve inflammation and provide antibodies against viruses. In cases where providing anti-viral medication is not always possible, probiotics are administered to boost immunity. Probiotics are also given so as to reduce the side-effects of antibiotics. In one such case several different probiotics, including Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium and Saccharomyces boulardii, along with minerals and vitamins were given to a COVID-19 patient. It was observed that this type of nutritional support lowered the complications that arose from being treated with a heavy dose of antibiotic medicines. It remains to be seen as how effective are the probiotics in the existing scenario and a further research & data is required to conclude that they are beneficial for COVID-19.
Probiotic Use and regulatory compliance
Understanding the science behind probiotics can be complex as there are different strains of probiotics and therefore, it is important to identify the strain of bacteria that is scientifically proven to provide a benefit. The Food Safety and Standards (Health Supplements, Nutraceuticals, Food for Special Dietary Use, Food for Special Medical Purpose, Functional Food and Novel Food) Regulations, 2016, which regulates probiotics states that No food business operator shall use probiotic ingredients in food except the probiotic culture of the microorganisms specified in Schedule VII or those probiotic microorganisms approved by the Food Authority from time to time. Probiotic preparations may contain added prebiotics permitted under these regulations. So, the food business operators have to ensure they are manufacturing only those probiotics that are permitted in these regulations to be further sold in India. Consumers must be equally aware, that probiotics as medications must be taken only under a doctor’s recommendation as doctors have a better understanding about the strain of the probiotic, the dosage and duration of treatment based on the requirements of the individual.