-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, May 8 (HealthDay News) -- Consuming probiotic-rich
foods may decrease the risk of diarrhea for patients who are taking
antibiotics, a new study suggests.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are found naturally in
foods such as yogurt and are believed to provide health
About 30 percent of patients who take antibiotics will
experience diarrhea because the drugs disrupt gastrointestinal
microbes, and diarrhea is one of the main reasons people don't
adhere to antibiotic treatment.
"Diarrhea is a common problem in patients receiving antibiotic therapy and may limit their use," said Dr. David Bernstein, chief of hepatology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. Bernstein was not involved in the new study.
"While these antibiotics treat the underlying infection, they also alter the normal gut [microbes], which leads to diarrhea," Bernstein said. "Replacing [the microbes] in patients on antibiotics has long been thought to improve antibiotic-associated diarrhea."
In the study, researchers led by Susanne Hempel, of RAND Health
in Santa Monica, Calif., reviewed the findings of 63 clinical
trials involving nearly 12,000 participants. They found that
probiotic use was associated with a 42 percent lower risk of
developing antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
"This study further underscores the importance of maintaining the balance of our intestinal bacteria," said Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Medical Center and assistant professor at the NYU School of Medicine in New York City.
"We are learning how our beneficial bacteria can protect us not only from gastrointestinal diseases but perhaps other conditions as well," said Rajapaksa, who was not involved in the new research. "If we disrupt our bacterial balance with antibiotics, it seems prudent to restore the 'good' bacteria with a probiotic supplement. However, further research is needed to determine which strains and doses will be most helpful."
The study authors agreed that there wasn't sufficient evidence
to determine if the beneficial effects of probiotics vary by
patient population, antibiotic characteristic or probiotic
"Future studies should assess these factors and explicitly assess the possibility of adverse events to better refine our understanding of the use of probiotics to prevent [antibiotic-associated diarrhea]," Rand and her colleagues concluded.
The study showed only an association between probiotic use and
decreased odds for diarrhea; it was not designed to prove a
Bernstein said that, as of now, there is not much clarity for
consumers in terms of what microbes are included in a particular
probiotic product. Probiotics "remain a largely unregulated and
diverse class of supplements," he said. "Probiotic preparations are
made up of a multitude of types of bacteria."
The study appears in the May 9 issue of the
Journal of the American Medical Association.
The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative
Medicine has more about
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