When we take them they kill many different types of bacteria, including the “good ones” in our gut. Therefore, diarrhea is a common side effect of antibiotic treatment. As many as 11 – 40% of children develop diarrhea while taking antibiotics.
I recently read of a survey of eight studies that evaluated the use of probiotics for preventing diarrhea. Overall, using probiotics reduced the likelihood of developing antibiotic-associated diarrhea by 52% (57% in children). This demonstrates that probiotics actually prevent a majority of cases. The same review study showed how probiotics can reduce the incidence of diarrhea from other causes by 34%. It’s clear that using probiotics is a particularly good idea for anyone who is plagued by chronic diarrhea or by anyone who will need to take antibiotics.
C. Diff (Clostridium difficle) is an organism common to our gastrointestinal system. Usually, it is kept in control by our normal “good bacteria”. When balance is upset, C. Diff can multiply and be the cause of diarrhea, sometimes so severe that it can result in death. C. Diff infections can add 3 to 7 days of hospital stay, costing up to one billion dollars a year. Preventing C.Diff diarrhea would greatly benefit health and our finances. A study at Valley Lutheran Hospital in Arizona demonstrated a 60% reduction in C. Diff diagnosis in 2001. In another nearby hospital where probiotics were not used, the rate of C. Diff infection remained the same as in previous years.
The evidence is clear that probiotics are helpful, cost effective, and they can also be life saving. The hospital that used probiotics was only compliant for 60% of the patients. Just imagine how much better the rates (higher than 60% reduction) would have been if everyone had been using probiotics while in the hospital. Probiotics are inexpensive – near zero cost in comparison to the expense of treating the C. Diff infection – and there are no side effects.
If a hospital doesn’t offer probiotics, request them. Ask your doctor for an order for them. In fact, start weeks before admission and insist on getting a daily dose of probiotics while there. Then, continue after discharge – for life would be good.
The benefits of regular probiotic use are well established and all of us should take them every day. Diarrhea will certainly decline. That’s not all. Other benefits of daily use include less gas, more regularity, and far less gastric discomfort. Do your family a great service and see that each member takes a probiotic capsule every day.
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