Bastyr Center for Natural Health, Seattle, Washington
Health Information
Overview Health Conditions and Concerns Conditions A-M Conditions N-Z Healthy Lifestyle Tips Bastyr Health-E News News and Events Recommended Reading List Recipes National and Community Resources
Schedule an appointment today
Digestion | Taking Antibiotics? Remember Your Good Bugs
Senior Woman

Several studies have suggested that probiotics may reduce the chances of acquiring antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

Taking Antibiotics? Remember Your Good Bugs

Taking a probiotic supplement along with antibiotics may help prevent diarrhea caused by the Clostridium difficile bacterium, reports the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

A well-deserved name

Clostridium difficile (also known as C. diff) secretes a toxin that attacks the lining of the colon, causing watery diarrhea and varying levels of abdominal pain and cramping. Serious infections can lead to dehydration, bloody stool, weight loss, kidney failure and sometimes death. C. diff is more common in hospitals and nursing homes, especially among the elderly and in people who’ve recently taken antibiotics. And it can be very hard to clear up; recurrent infections are common after treatment, and newer, harder-to-treat strains are emerging. For these reasons, prevention is the key to limiting the spread of this tenacious infection.

Good bugs vs. bad bugs

Probiotics are defined as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.” One of the best-known examples is Lactobacillus acidophilus.

Several studies have suggested that probiotics are beneficial for colon health and may reduce the chances of acquiring antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

The study pooled the results of 23 trials including 4,213 participants of all ages being treated with antibiotics to see what effect probiotics had on C. diff-associated diarrhea, C. diff infection, other antibiotic-associated diarrhea, and adverse events such as abdominal cramping, nausea and gas.

Here’s what the review showed:

  • Probiotics reduced the risk of C. diff–associated diarrhea by 64 percent. 
  • Compared with placebo or no treatment, probiotics significantly decreased adverse events, including abdominal cramping, nausea, fever, soft stools, gas, and taste disturbance. 
  • Probiotics significantly reduced the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea caused by organisms other than C. diff
  • The risk of C. diff infection wasn’t affected by probiotic use.

“The possibility therefore arises that probiotics may be effective in preventing symptoms of infection or in limiting the extent of infection rather than inhibiting the colonization and infection itself,” commented lead researcher, Joshua Goldenberg of Bastyr University, on this last finding.

Preventing C. diff

Since one of the biggest risk factors for contracting C. diff is taking antibiotics, it follows that avoiding unnecessary antibiotic use can help decrease risk.

C. diff can be found on bedrails, sink faucets, door handles, call buttons, IV poles and any other place that an infected person touches after contact with the feces. Once it’s on these surfaces and another person touches one of them, it’s only a matter of time until the bacteria make it to the mouth of that person (such as during eating, covering a cough or touching the lips).

For health care workers and those in hospitals or nursing facilities, good hygiene is the key to limiting C. diff transmission. The bacteria are spread by the fecal-oral route (from the feces of an infected person to the mouth — and subsequently the intestines — of a noninfected person), so good hand washing is crucial for preventing spread of the infection.

A cleaning solution containing bleach should be used to thoroughly disinfect all surfaces that have come in contact with a C. diff-infected person.

(Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013;DOI:10.1002/14651858.CD006095.pub3)

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her doctoral degree from Bastyr University, the nation’s premier academic institution for science-based natural medicine. She co-founded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI, where she practiced whole family care with an emphasis on nutritional counseling, herbal medicine, detoxification, and food allergy identification and treatment. Her blog, Eat Happy, helps take the drama out of healthy eating with real food recipes and nutrition news that you can use. Dr. Beauchamp is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

Learn More About It

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 |

Find a Provider

Want to find the provider that's right for you? Learn more about our health care providers.  »

Bastyr Center Disclaimer

The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.


Appointments: 206.834.4100
Bastyr Center clinic appointments

Submit a contact request or call us to schedule an appointment »

Bastyr University Clinic in San Diego

Are you looking for Bastyr University Clinic, our new teaching clinic in San Diego? More »

Learn More About Our Services

Natural medicine can treat many types of conditions including:

More treatable health conditions »

Bastyr Center healthcare providers

Interested in finding a provider who's right for you? We recommend that your first visit at BCNH be with a Naturopathic Medicine Provider. »

Home  | Health Information  | Health Care Services  | Our Providers  | Patient Care  | Dispensaries

About BCNH  | Contact Us  | Appointments  | Privacy Policy  | Site Map | Bastyr University