Flu jabs are set to be particularly important this year with the Aussie flu on its way and the NHS warning the health service will be inundated with ill patients.
However, the effectiveness of the vaccine has been widely questioned.
The NHS said last week they feared it would not effectively protect the elderly – a vulnerable group.
But taking a trendy supplement could help boost the jab’s effectiveness.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts good for the digestive system and the immune system – but their benefits may now extend further.
A recent study by the University of Melbourne, published in August, revealed that taking them could encourage a positive response to the flu vaccine.
In the study they state: “Probiotics offer a relatively cheap intervention to improve vaccine efficacy and duration of protection”.
Dr Ashton Harper, medical advisor at Bio-Kult (bio-kult.com), said that the gut and immune system are linked.
“By changing the gut bacterial profile, probiotics alter the concentration of certain signalling molecules which has a direct stimulatory effect on the host immune system,” he explained.
“It has also been suggested that direct contact between the probiotic bacteria and cells of the host’s immune system may lead to the improved response to the vaccination.
“There are numerous cell types that make up the human immune system and their complex functions likely involve interaction with a diverse range of bacterial species from a multi-strain probiotic.
“Additionally, probiotics have been shown to maintain a healthy intestinal barrier, which may prevent against a leaky gut and reduce inflammation, a situation which would certainly compound an acute flu episode.”
Dr Harper said this was particularly important since the general response rate to the flu jab is currently only about 40 to 60 per cent effective.
In the over-65 population he said this may be as low as 30 per cent.
“To enhance the response to the flu vaccine probiotics should be taken from the time of the flu vaccine for a minimum of two weeks – this is because the process of ‘memorising’ the virus and producing antibodies is thought to take this amount of time,” he added.
“To strengthen our internal barriers against infections, such as the flu – high risk in the northern hemisphere during the winter months, it would be advisable to consume probiotics from October to March. Probiotics should be consumed with a meal ideally to maximise survival through the stomach.”