Antibiotics + probiotics = protect your colon from C. difficile

adapted from the CDC

adapted from the CDC

Those who read this blog know that there is NOT a lot of evidence behind probiotic use except in very specific situations. There is one situation where using probiotics could possibly SAVE YOUR COLON.

Clostridium difficile, C. difficile or C. diff, is a stubborn, hard-to-treat super-bug that causes symptoms from diarrhea to life-threatening colitis. Normally, the trillions of gutbugs in your strong healthy microbiome work with your immune system to keep C. diff at bay. But in the setting of antibiotic use, your good bacteria is killed off and that allows C. diff to flourish, take over and secrete dangerous toxins. These toxins cause serious inflammation in the colon that causes diarrhea and in severe situations, severe infection (sepsis) possibly requiring surgical removal of your colon (resection) and even death.

Ley, Nature Medicine 2014

Ley, Nature Medicine 2014

Do you know anyone who’s been infected with C. diff? Chances are you have, as it is now common in the community as well as hospital settings. In fact, the incidence of C. difficile infection has more than doubled over the past ten years in the U.S.

Well we can’t sit back anymore and let this bug claim more colons and destroy more lives. There is something so simple that EVERYONE needs to do EVERY TIME THEY TAKE AN ANTIBIOTIC—START A PROBIOTIC. In hospitalized adults, studies show probiotics reduce the risk of C. diff by over 50% when taken within 2 days of the first antibiotic dose. Here's the way it works: Under normal conditions, the microbiome eats sialic acids (food) from the gut lining. When the resident microbiota is wiped out by antibiotics, sialic acids are left uneaten creating a window of opportunity for C. difficile to eat them up and subsequently grow and multiply. Probiotics and fecal transplantation both play the same helpful role of taking over the job of the native microbiome and eating up the sialic acids before C. difficile can get to it, therefore preventing infection. 

The optimal dose, duration or bug is not set in stone but consider the following:

- Lactobacillus kefir strains in fermented milk produce proteins that fight off C. difficile toxins (look for dairy-free options! as long as they say specify Lactobacillus on the nutrition facts)

- In powder form, Saccharomyces boulardii (FlorastorMax powder satchets-- FYI they do NOT require refrigeration) makes an enzyme that can fight off C. difficile toxins.

- And important to know- Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium colonize the intestine regardless of antibiotic use at the same time (antibiotics won't kill the probiotic)

Other preventive measures to avoid C. diff include using antibiotics only when absolutely needed (viral infections do NOT require antibiotics) and wash your hands often!

SO. Next time you have a sinus infection, UTI, or anything requiring antibiotic use-- DO NOT leave the pharmacy without a probiotic and start it right away with your antibiotic, taking it right inbetween antibiotic doses. 

#respectyourcolon #protectyourcolon