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Supplements | Probiotic May Reduce Sick Days

Probiotic May Reduce Sick Days

Workers who supplemented with the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri took less sick-leave from their jobs than workers who took placebo, according to the journal Environmental Health (2005;4:25).

The volunteers in the study—181 employees of the Swedish company Tetra Pak—were in good health at the beginning of the study. Each day for 80 days, the people took 100 ml (3.4 ounces) of either the liquid probiotic supplement or placebo from a packaged straw. (Potency of probiotic supplements is measured in colony-forming units, or CFUs. The L. reuteri supplement used in this study provided one hundred million (108) CFU each day.)

The researchers asked volunteers to keep a diary throughout the study documenting any upper respiratory infection (for example, cold or influenza) or gastrointestinal infection (for example, stomach flu) and also any sick-leave taken as a result of the illness. In the placebo group, 26.4% reported sick-leave due to the infections mentioned, compared with only 10.6% in the L. reuteri group. No difference was reported in the median length of sick-leave taken by people in the two groups (three days).

A subgroup of shift workers in the study appeared to respond especially well to the supplement: 33% in the placebo group reported sick leave, compared with none of those taking the L. reuteri supplement. Shift workers may have a higher risk of common infections than other workers.

L. reuteri is a probiotic, or beneficial bacterium, normally found in the gut of humans and other animals. It was originally isolated from human breast milk. Probiotic bacteria can adhere to the walls of the large intestine, where they may inhibit the growth of other bacteria, such as those that cause infections. They may also stimulate certain cells of the immune system to fight infection, and have been shown to reduce the severity and shorten the length of infectious diarrhea in children.

The authors report that sick days caused by respiratory or gastrointestinal illness could be reduced by 55% in workers supplementing with L. reuteri.

Readers should note that the main author is a stockholder and senior vice president at the company that developed and manufactures the product used in the study. He also holds several patents on the probiotic. While this doesn’t invalidate the study’s findings, because of the potential conflict of interest the research should be interpreted with that information in mind.

Jeremy Appleton, ND, CNS, is a licensed naturopathic physician, certified nutrition specialist, and published author. Dr. Appleton was the Nutrition Department Chair at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, has served on the faculty at Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences, and is a former Healthnotes Senior Science Editor and a founding contributor to Healthnotes Newswire. He has worked extensively in scientific and regulatory affairs in the supplement industry and is now a consultant through his company Praxis Natural Products Consulting and Wellness Services.

Copyright © 2005 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Healthnotes® content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Healthnotes, Inc. Healthnotes Newswire is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Healthnotes, Inc. shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. HEALTHNOTES and the Healthnotes logo are registered trademarks of Healthnotes, Inc.

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The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.

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