Published on April 3, 2020
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the C. difficile bacteria infects around 500,000 people each year. While the number of deaths is estimated at 14,000 annually. This makes Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) one of the leading causes of death in the US.
CDI usually occurs in people taking or have been exposed to antibiotic treatments. That’s because antibiotics kill both the good and bad microorganisms in your body. This process disrupts the healthy balance of bacteria in your microbiota allowing C Diff bacteria to take over. (Related: Does Taking Antibiotics Cause Constipation?)
When the C Diff bacteria colonize your guts, it can cause serious inflammation in your colon. This is why C Diff patients suffer from watery diarrhea with a very strong odor. Other symptoms include:
- abdominal cramps
- loss of appetite
If left untreated, a CDI can lead to severe dehydration which affects your overall bodily function. In extreme cases, it can also cause perforation in your large intestines.
Ironically, doctors often prescribe antibiotics to treat CDI. Among the antibiotics used to treat CDI are metronidazole, vancomycin, and fidaxomicin. Unfortunately, new studies suggest that certain strains of this bacteria are resistant to several types of antibiotics.
How Probiotics Help Prevent C. Diff
In recent years, several research studies have been conducted to asses how effective probiotics are in containing a C. Diff infection.
As mentioned, C. Diff infection happens when antibiotics wipe out the microorganism in your gut. This is where probiotics enter the picture. It replenishes the good bacteria destroyed by the antibiotic treatment. With enough good bacteria in your gut, the bacteria that’s causing CDI won’t be able to spread.
If you’re not familiar with probiotics, it is a type of bacteria that is beneficial to your health. It’s found in our body, in the food we eat as well as in supplements.
Probiotic Strains For C. Diff
Though there are a lot of probiotic supplements in the market, not all of them are effective in treating CDI. There are thousands of probiotic strains and each of them has different functions. Taking a probiotic supplement with strains geared for oral disorders might not work against gut illnesses.
So how do you know which probiotic supplement to take?
According to studies, the following probiotic strains show promising effects against C. Diff infection:
S. Boulardii has been traditionally used to treat symptoms related to cholera. It produces an enzyme that prevents the intestines from absorbing cholera toxins.
Recent clinical trials also show that this probiotic strain also helps prevent CDI. The study found that it reduces intestinal permeability which the C. Diff bacteria from sticking into your gut wall.
In 1994, a study administered 500mg of S. boulardii for four weeks during and after antibiotic treatment. This reduced the patients’ overall CDI recurrence rate by almost half.
Another study in 2000 reinforces the results of previous studies. A dose of S. boulardii was given for 28 days to patients undergoing antibiotic therapy. Analysis of the results shows that it is significantly more effective in patients with recurring CDI.
Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG (LGG)
Most probiotic strains are dissolved by the acid in your stomach even before it reaches your gut. But the LGG strain is believed to be capable of surviving stomach acid. This helps it more effectively colonize your stomach and prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.
Like S. boulardii, studies show that LGG is most effective in patients with recurring CDI. Multiple studies conducted from 1987 to 1995 successfully treated CDI patients with LGG. The 1995 study shows that CDI was resolved only after two weeks of LGG treatment.
Despite these, you should still be careful when taking probiotics especially if you have a compromised immune system. If your CDI symptoms persist, consult your doctor immediately.
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a firm believer in the health benefits of probiotics and she wants to share that with the world. She also loves to write about healthy foods and other healthy living tips.