By Maureen Williams, ND
According to a new review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, probiotic supplements containing strains of gut-friendly bacteria can help to prevent and treat an especially common side effect of antibiotic use: diarrhoea.
Minimising the damage
Antibiotics can help you clear an infection, but they sometimes wreak havoc by killing beneficial intestinal bacteria in the process. Probiotic supplements aim to minimise the damage by providing friendly bacteria or yeasts to replace what is lost during antibiotic treatment and to prevent colonization by harmful microbes.
Probiotics make antibiotics more tolerable
When the researchers analysed the combined data, they found the following:
People taking a probiotic supplement were 42% less likely to develop antibiotic-associated diarrhoea compared to people using no supplement or placebo.
The various strains of bacteria and yeasts used in the probiotics were all similarly effective.
Probiotics were equally helpful in children and adults.
People benefited similarly from probiotics regardless of the nature of the original infection for which antibiotics were given.
“Our review found sufficient evidence to conclude that adjunct probiotic administration is associated with a reduced risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea,” the study’s authors said.
Probiotics for good health
In addition to preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, probiotics can be helpful for a range of other conditions. Here are some other reasons to take probiotic supplements:
Yeast infections. Probiotics are useful for preventing and treating yeast infections such as yeast vaginitis, thrush, and intestinal candidiasis.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Probiotic supplements can reduce IBS symptoms like bloating, abdominal discomfort, and bowel irregularity.
Inflammatory bowel disease. Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis cause changes in the intestinal wall that make it hard for healthy bacteria to thrive. Many people with these conditions benefit from supplementing with probiotics.
Colds and flu. Supplementing with probiotics strengthens immune function and prevents all kinds of infections, even colds and flu.
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