Diarrhea can be a single episode following a tainted meal or continue for months with radiation treatments or serious infections. Often this occurs when the microbiota of the intestines becomes unbalanced either through antibiotics, radiation, exposure to pathogens or immunodeficiency.
In ancient times, fermented foods were used routinely to alleviate intestinal distress. But as food preservation and processing displaced cultured foods, healthy bacteria were also replaced.
Probiotics can restore the microflora balance. Take a look at how each cause may differ in approach to therapy:
Food and water borne pathogens killed one million people last year, most in developing countries where poor nutritional status impairs immune systems. The elderly and babies are least likely to withstand the withering dehydration.. Various strains of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus show potential in this deadly illness.
Children with acute diarrhea showed more rapid recovery when given yogurt than those given milk. Breastfeeding can be a lifesaver, protecting infants from pathogens as well as supplying a perfect mix of microbes.
Further reading on rotavirus and probiotics:
An oral preparation of Lactobacillus acidophilus for the treatment of uncomplicated acute watery diarrhoea in Vietnamese children: study protocol for a multicentre, randomised, placebo-controlled trial.
Pathogens are killed by a scorched earth application with antibiotics. Gone too are the helpful bacteria which regulate metabolism and digestion.
Clostridium difficile (C.diff) is a spore-forming bacterium that is a major cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD). It produces toxins which alter the colon lining, setting up a cascade of damaging inflammatory processes. The complications of AAD include electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, pseudomembrane colitis and toxic megacolon.
C.diff is epidemic in hospitals today with up to 40% of patients bearing colonies. Metronidazole and vancomycin are two string antibiotics treating C.diff but they also kill good microbes.
Many countries prescribe probiotics along with antibiotics, an excellent policy. Saccharomyces boulardii especially will reduce C. diff.
A recent meta-analysis concluded that Saccharomyces boulardii could prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea and could safely be used in many other instances of diarrhea.
Further reading on antibiotic-associated diarrhea and probiotics:
When the stomach and abdomen are radiated , diarrhea can ensue from damage to cells in the small and large bowel.
Nearly 500 cancer patients in one clinical trial were given high-dose probiotics which mixed eight strains. Those on placebo had more diarrhea than the probiotic group. This presents a feasible and cheap plan to rid these patients of a debilitating side effect of radiation.
Further reading on radiation-induced diarrhea and probiotics:
Traveler’s diarrhea is a common health complaint and a surefire holiday buster. Symptoms usually develop after eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated with unhealthy microbes. The most common culprit is a type of Escherichia coli but many bacterium, viruses and parasites can induce diarrhea.
Studies show that probiotics can prevent traveler’s diarrhea. Saccharomyces boulardii and a mixture of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum showed good results.
Further reading on travelers’ diarrhea and probiotics: