Team McCallum

R&D for Lifetime of Life

Probiotics v diarrhea.

Diarrhea is a killer of children in developing countries and of the aged in industrialised nations, and often afflicts people on international travel. A team working for the Cochrane Foundation carried out a review of existing research, and concluded that probiotics appeared to help in the treatment of acute diarrhea.

The team found 63 studies worldwide that were suitable for inclusion. These covered 8,000 people, the vast majority of whom were aged under 18.

Diarrhea can be caused by a number of things, for example when antibiotics upset the balance of natural bacteria in the gut. The review looked only at cases of infectious diarrhea (caused by a virus, parasite or bacteria) which was acute (less than 14 days duration). After 14 days the condition becomes chronic diarrhea, and is more serious because malnutrition is normally involved.

The key findings for acute infectious diarrhea were that probiotics cut the average length of the condition by about 1 day, and cut the risk of it lasting for more than 4 days by 60%. Other measures suggest the benefits were fairly rapid in appearing.

Beyond this, the review team was cautious. The studies covered developing nations and industrialised ones. There was variation in what constituted acute infectious diarrhea. The types of patients included and excluded varied. The type of probiotics varied. So the review team called for further studies with these aspects standardised.

However, the full report contains a number of further interesting facts buried in its 126 pages.

First, the report covers the 6 systematic reviews of probiotics/acute infectious diarrhea that have been conducted previously. Each of the 6 found benefits similar to the current team.

Second, the current review noted the results of 4 trials that focussed specifically on cases arising from bacterial infection. Each of these trials found that probiotics did not produce any improvement. This is important as the cause of diarrhea in international travellers is normally bacterial.

Third, all of the probiotics tested, of which there were many, appeared to work in non-bacterial diarrhea. The 3 studied most often were Lactobacillus casei GG, Saccharomyces boulardii and Enterococcus lactic acid bacteria SF68.

In their section discussing the team’s findings, they started with these words. “A striking finding of this review is that most trials reported that probiotics improved diarrhoea. A beneficial effect of probiotics was consistent across the different diarrhoea outcomes and was statistically significant in many trials.”


November 11, 2010 - Posted by | Health, Probiotics, Success

1 Comment »

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    Trackback by Go Green Natural Living | November 17, 2010 | Reply

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