Traditional use of probiotics has been to help problems with the GI tract. Irritable bowel, bloatingand diarrhea are common symptoms where probiotics may be used. Probiotics are commonlyused to help children and adults when infectious agents, like viruses, cause diarrhea. Theprobiotics themselves do not necessarily kill the bugs, but help the body through the infection. Theprobiotics do seem to help prevent reinfection and may even help the body produce antibodiesagainst the infectious bug. Probiotics have also improved treatment rates against the bacteriasuspected of causing stomach ulcers. It is no surprise that given the billion plus numbers of goodbacteria in our intestinal tract, these important bacteria play a critical role in keeping thisenvironment healthy. The benefits of probiotics expand beyond the intestinal tract. In fact, there is quite a bit of researchto say that probiotics may actually help prevent respiratory infections such as the cold and flu. Theincreasing media coverage of the swine flew has concerned many parents, teachers, schooladministrators and entire communities on what to do. Fortunately, probiotics show evidence tohelp prevent respiratory infections. Probiotics have benefited the elderly in the prevention ofinfections while in the hospital. Probiotics have helped reduce potentially infectious bugs like staphand strep from colonizing in the nose. Taking a combination of a multivitamin and probiotics canhelp reduce the incidence and severity of colds and flu's for three months. The Epstein-Barr virushas been implicated in chronic fatigue. Probiotics have been used to help treat the reactivation ofthe Epstein-Barr virus by increasing the body's production of interferon, which helps decrease theviral load. Other Benefits In addition, probiotics help prevent vaginal infections as well as bladder infections. Probiotics arerecommended to be taken during the use of antibiotics to prevent the loss of the good bacteria inthe intestines, and then for even a few weeks after to make sure that the bacterial flora ismaintained after antibiotic treatment. Since antibiotics kill bacteria, some of the good bacteria maybe lost as well. Antibiotics do not kill fungi (or yeast), so the loss of the good bacteria needed topolice some of the bad bugs gives the yeast in the gut a major opportunity to grow beyond itswelcome. This can lead to bloating, vaginal infections, thrush and even greater problems.Treatment with probiotics can help prevent these problems from ever starting. Probiotics can bedosed once a day for prevention, or two to three times daily to help treat current infections.Probiotics should be used alongside medical or herbal antibiotic treatments, but not in place ofthem. Some probiotics come refrigerated, whereas others are not. Refrigeration is not alwaysneeded, though for some brands it does ensure high amounts of probiotics in the container.Dosing for probiotics is typically done in CFU's, colony forming units, with recommended dosingstarting 1-5 billion CFU for maintenance and 20 or more CFU taken 2-3 times a day when thebody is fighting an infection. Side effects are extremely rare with probiotics, but a few cases ofinfection have occurred in patients with indwelling catheters. Seasonal Safety Probiotics represent a very helpful, safe and effective tool in the prevention of many types ofinfections. Great for intestinal problems, probiotics may be a very helpful option to prevent orlessen the colds and flu seen in winter.