Reduce Muscle Fatigue with Probiotic Supplements

Probiotics combat fatigue problems in athletes

Many athletes suffering from fatigue have an immune defect that can be reversed by taking probiotic supplements (which are believed to help fight illness by improving the balance of bacteria in the gut). That’s the implication of a new study from Australia, which examined 27 well-trained recreational athletes, nine of whom had referred themselves to a medical sports clinic complaining of fatigue, recurrent sore throats and impaired performance. The remaining 18 athletes served as a healthy ‘control’ group.

The fatigued athletes showed signs of reactivated infection with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) – a very common virus that doesn’t normally cause symptoms. They also showed significant impairment in the function of their blood T-cells, which play an important role in the body’s immune defences.
‘Review of the illness records of the fatigued athletes showed features consistent with a syndrome of re-activated EBV infection,’ comment the researchers. ‘Compared with the healthy control athletes, the fatigued athletes had more frequent and protracted episodes of upper respiratory tract symptoms, usually linked to periods of intense training.’

All the athletes took a four-week course of the probiotic supplement L acidophilus. At the end of the month the T-cell function of the fatigued athletes had climbed back up to the levels found in the healthy athletes. They also showed significantly reduced evidence of EBV infection. Encouragingly, the healthy athletes also showed signs of improved immune function after taking the probiotic supplement for a month.

The researchers have called for larger, more protracted studies to support their findings. But meanwhile they point out: ‘This is the first evidence of a T-cell defect in fatigued athletes, and of its reversal following probiotic therapy.’

Br J Sports Med 2006;40:351-354

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