Respiratory health has been a hot topic throughout the world over these last several months. Face masks and respirators have become hot commodities, and immuno-compromised individuals and those with respiratory conditions have had to be especially careful during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve never given too much thought to the relative health of my lungs, but it’s something I’ve found myself thinking about quite often this year. I’m sure the same is true for many of you.
While we all continue to wait on things to return to some semblance of normalcy, it might be a good idea to remind ourselves that there are some things we can do to protect our lungs and improve our respiratory health in the meantime. The first thing we should be doing is what we’ve been doing, reducing risk of infection through washing our hands, avoiding crowds, wearing masks, and practicing proper social distancing. Next, don’t smoke! Many people think that they’ve smoked too long for quitting to make a difference, but in reality, it’s never too late to benefit from quitting. Exercise is also a guaranteed way to improve respiratory health. Exercising strengthens your lungs and heart, improving your body’s efficiency in transferring oxygen into the bloodstream and increasing the amount of physical activity you can do before becoming short of breath.
One option for improving respiratory health that has not been discussed much is probiotics. Research into the effects of probiotics on respiratory health is relatively new, but there are already several promising studies demonstrating the potential benefits, particularly in preventing the onset of respiratory infections and illnesses. L. casei has been part of several studies to this effect. In one, athletic subjects were tested for upper respiratory tract infections while training during the winter. One group was given a probiotic supplement during training, while the other was given a placebo. The group supplementing with L. casei was found to have significantly fewer upper respiratory tract infections than the placebo group. A similar study was performed on middle-aged office workers in 2017. This study also found that daily supplementation with L. casei led to reduced risk of upper respiratory tract infections.
Other strains that have shown benefits for respiratory health include L. fermentum, B. lactis, and B. breve. Studies with L. fermentum have shown that it could help to reduce the duration or severity of respiratory illness. B. lactis has demonstrated potential in reducing the frequency and severity of respiratory diseases. B. breve has been shown to possess strong anti-inflammatory properties that could be beneficial in alleviating symptoms of chronic asthma and promoting respiratory health.
Research in this area is ongoing, but even now, there is strong evidence that probiotics can help to prevent risk of respiratory illnesses. Consider adding them to your respiratory health repertoire alongside exercise and viral infection prevention procedures.
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- Probiotics and the Immune System
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- Respiratory Tract Infections Reduced in Athletes