Can prebiotics and probiotics help with colds?

With cold and flu season right around the corner, it’s important to consider your diet and how it can help you to fight infection. Eating a well-balanced diet, following Canada’s Food Guide, is still key and can help your immune system work at its best! Drinking adequate fluids, getting enough rest, washing your hands frequently and keeping physically active are also very important.

Can Prebiotics and probiotics help with colds?

Research shows that incorporating prebiotics and probiotics into your diet can help maintain a healthy gut and ultimately build a healthy immune system. A healthy immune system is better equipped to fight a cold or flu virus!

Prebiotics¹ are natural, non-digestible ingredients found in food that help promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics are commonly found in inulin and fructooligosaccharides (FOS). You can increase your consumption of prebiotics by consuming chicory, bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans and whole-wheat foods in your diet. Companies will add prebiotics to foods so read the labels to check for ingredients and amounts. Dietitians of Canada recommends consuming 10 g of prebiotics daily.

Probiotics¹ are live cultures of good bacteria that when consumed can help establish a positive gut bacteria flora. There are a multitude of probiotics on the market today; all with potentially different health benefits. Probiotics can be found in some yogurts, kefir products and aged cheeses. Beneficial cultures can also be found in foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and soy beverages. Probiotics are available in supplement form but do your homework to help make an informed decision. Reputable companies will have scientific research, supporting the claimed health benefits of their product, on their website.

To help fight colds, Dietitians of Canada recommends the dose needs to be about 10 billion active probiotic cultures per day. You will also need to take the probiotics every day for at least three months before the cold season begins to be effective. Probiotics that may help to fight colds are:

  • Lactobacillus gasseri, CECT5714 or PA16/8

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus, 74-2 or NCFM

  • Lactobacillus casei, DN 114

  • Bifidobacterium longum, SP07/3,

  • Bifidobacterium bifidum MF 20/5

As with any nutritional supplement, discuss with your health care provider before taking a probiotic supplement, particularly if you have a weakened immune system. If you have an allergy to milk or soy, you will need to use caution when choosing a probiotic as some probiotic strains are grown using milk or soy proteins.¹

Adapted from the Practice Based Evidence in Nutrition (PEN) website through Dietitians of Canada.

For more information on healthy eating and how to safely incorporate prebiotics and probiotics into your diet visit:

Enjoy a healthy diet and lifestyle and reap the benefits during cold and flu season!

Disclaimer:This information is provided by our Registered Dietitian and is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or health professional regarding your individual needs. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.

Kim Jeffery has been a Registered Dietitian for 25 years and is a member of the College of Dietitians of Alberta. For the past 7 years Kim has used her expertise to help ensure the meals produced at Calgary Meals on Wheels are nutritious and healthy for our clients.