Contributed by: Rachana Arya
The year 2021 started with optimism and excitement. However, just four months into the year, the world is down to its knees with the second nationwide wave of Covid-19 pandemic. We are back in a critical situation, quarantined.
That’s why—now more than ever—here is a big question that many are asking: Can probiotics reduce the duration of – or even diminish the symptom load and thereby lessen the impact – of COVID-19?
Maybe, maybe not!
Numerous studies are investigating the role of probiotics in preventing and reducing susceptibility to coronavirus. Scarce data is available to suggest probiotics as a ray of hope in COVID-19 management. Consequently, whether or not these supplements can prevent or ameliorate COVID-19-associated symptoms is not fully understood. However, in a view of prevention being better than cure, probiotics have become promising immunobiotic agents to possibly treat the infection of COVID-19.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that live in our bodies naturally and help the intestines break down food. These include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera of bacteria. According to scientific evidence, when administered in adequate amounts, they confer a host of health benefits on the host.
How do probiotics help you?
Often called ‘good’ bacteria, they have been shown to strengthen and rebalance gut health and improve human immunity. They also prevent the colonization of pathogens and reduce the frequency and severity of various infections. Because microbes used as probiotics are the same or very similar to the friendly bacteria already present within the gut, hence they are generally recognized as safe. Clinical evidence shows that some probiotic strains help to prevent infections, including gastroenteritis, sepsis, and respiratory tract infections.
How do probiotics help mitigate coronavirus?
While all these benefits are well-recognized, recent pieces of evidence have shown that probiotics may be beneficial in reinforcing both anti-inflammatory responses and immune defenses in COVID-19 treatment. The emerging studies suggest the capability of probiotics to reduce the severity of COVID-19 by stimulating and modulating the immune system. A new study looking into the role of probiotics in managing the new variants of the disease indicates that upon administration, they benefit the host by:
- Increasing anti-inflammatory cytokines
- Decreasing pro-inflammatory cytokines
- Reducing coronavirus dissemination in the respiratory tract and gut
- Improving antiviral antibody production
- Reducing the viral load
Adding prebiotics to your diet
You can boost your probiotic intake by adding more fermented foods to your diet. However, not all fermented foods contain probiotics, so you need to pick food items that have live bacteria.
A few traditional Indian probiotics that are good for you are:
- Unsweetened curd
- Vinegar-less pickles
- Dark Chocolates
- Soy Milk
- Idli, dosa, and other South Indian cuisines
The bottom line:
In closing, probiotics appear to offer a viable and plausible way against COVID-19 infection. However, their efficacy still warrants further clinical and laboratory investigation. Hence blind use of conventional probiotics for COVID-19 is not recommended.
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