Probiotics & Herpes

Probiotics -- otherwise known as "good" bacteria - are organisms that have an overall healthy effect on your body and digestive tract. They help to digest food, process waste and keep "bad" bacteria from multiplying. An overabundance of "bad" bacteria can cause ill health and disease. Probiotic supplements and foods containing probiotics can help to keep your body in a healthy state by preventing and treating many diseases, such as yeast infections and colon cancer. New research indicates probiotics may help in the treatment of herpes and other viruses.

Probiotics may be helpful in relieving herpes symptoms. (Image: filmfoto/iStock/Getty Images)

Effect of Probiotics on the Herpes Virus

Russian-trained microbiologist Dr. Liubov Shynkarenko, vice president and lead researcher of Pure Research Products LLC, presented findings at the International Probiotics Association World Congress on probiotics and their effects on harmful organisms. Dr. Shynkarenko reported that the Del-immune V® brand probiotic, manufactured by her company, has the effect of protecting the immune system and fighting off pathogens such as the herpes viruses and staphylococcus bacterium. In a study conducted by Shynkarenko, mice injected with herpes simplex type 1 virus and staphylococcus aureus had an improved survival rate after receiving the probiotic. Common probiotic bacteria include lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Be aware that the lead researcher has an interest in these results, as she owns the company, and the studies were done on mice and not humans.

How Probiotics Work

Probiotics such as lactobacillus may help to treat herpes by boosting your body's immune system. Special peptides are found in lactobacillus and are essential in inducing a rapid immune response in your body. Once activated, the immune system can do its job of protecting your body. The lactobacillus cells need to be fragmented before the peptides release. At least one probiotic, Del-Immune V®, reportedly has special components called cytokines that activate the immune system. These cytokines travel throughout the body, alerting it to the presence of potentially dangerous foreign bodies. The effect of this formulation is that both the lactobacillus and the cytokines act to promote a quicker and stronger immune response.

Choosing Probiotics

Many health professionals and probiotic promoters stress the importance of carefully choosing which probiotic to take to improve health or treat disease. Some probiotics are more readily absorbed by the body, while others have additional ingredients that help to promote healing and protective processes. A review in the October 2010 issue of the "International Journal of Food Microbiology" explains that some strains of lactobacillus are able to "degrade" carbohydrates, or help break them down into a simpler form to improve digestion and absorption. Other strains may have the potential to prevent cancer through the modulation of certain enzymes. Still others bind to the interstitial cells, or the cells between tissues, occupying the space where harmful bacteria would multiply, and in so doing prevent disease. Understanding the mechanisms through which probiotic organisms like lactobacillus work will go a long way in being able to choose the optimal probiotic and use it in the most effective manner.

Points to Consider

Based on scientific research, probiotics clearly have many protective and therapeutic effects on the human body. More research is needed, however, to establish a stronger link between probiotics and the prevention and treatment of the herpes virus. Always consult your doctor or health-care practitioner before taking any nutritional supplement to treat herpes.

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