“D” stands for diarrhea. It’s an unpleasant subject, but one that is frustratingly common and hits close to home for the vast majority of us.
Want to make diarrhea episodes end more quickly? Want to return your stomach to normalcy and comfort? A new study says that probiotics — friendly bacteria and now a very popular supplement — could be the answer.
New research found that probiotic bacteria used to combat diarrhea could both reduce the length of time sufferers are affected and lessen the chance of episodes continuing for more than four days.
It’s not only a frustrating symptom either. Each year, “diarrheal diseases” kill nearly two million people in developing countries, mostly young children. The main treatment is rehydration fluids, but these do not tend to reduce the length of illness, which is crucial in reducing the risk of persistent diarrhea. Probiotics, so-called “good bacteria,” may help in a variety of different ways, including eliminating the bacteria, viruses or parasites responsible, for example, by competing for the same nutrients. Now, this disease isn’t prevalent in the U.S., but it does help illustrate the true power of this alternative remedy.
The researchers looked at 63 studies with a total of 8,014 patients. In these studies, the researchers discovered that giving probiotics in conjunction with rehydration fluids reduced the duration of diarrhea by about one day and reduced the risk of diarrhea lasting four or more days by 60%. No serious side effects were reported in the trials.
The big finding here is that most studies reported that probiotics reduced diarrhea. This digestive-calming effect was consistent and significant across many different types of studies.
Researchers say that probiotics can be safely used along with rehydrating the body. Still, more studies are required to find out exactly which strains of bacteria are most effective in treating diarrhea. And which are best at preventing the progression from short-term to persistent diarrhea.
On another note, a second trial examined the use of probiotics for treating persistent diarrhea in children. This one found that probiotics could reduce the length of an episode of persistent diarrhea, but the study needs to be backed up before a major conclusion can be drawn.
In any event, probiotics deliver a major boost to the body’s intestinal health, and should be able to be safely used to combat the “D” word.