Probiotic supplements can prevent or lower the risk of diarrhea caused by antibiotics, according to new research in The Cochrane Library.

Scientists from the Cochrane Collaboration suggest that taking probiotics alongside antibiotics can prevent this troublesome side effect.

Antibiotics interfere with the beneficial bacteria that live in the gut and permit other dangerous bacteria like C. difficile to take hold. Some people who have C. difficile do not have symptoms, while others are afflicted with diarrhea or colitis.

The “good bacteria” or yeast found in probiotic foods and supplements can offer a safe, inexpensive method to help prevent C.difficile diarrhea. The authors point out this is a significant finding because this type of diarrhea is costly to treat.

A previous study published in JAMA said that eating probiotic foods, such as yogurt, decrease the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

The investigators examined 23 trials that reported on C.difficile involving 4,213 adults and children.

They found that 2% of patients who took probiotics developed C.difficile-associated diarrhea compared with 6% of patients who were taking placebos.

In 26 trials that documented adverse events, there were fewer adverse events experienced in the probiotic groups.

Lead researcher Bradley Johnston, of The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, said:

“In the short-term, taking probiotics in conjunction with antibiotics appears to be a safe and effective way of preventing diarrhoea associated with Clostridium difficile infection. The introduction of some probiotic regimens as adjuncts to antibiotics could have an immediate impact on patient outcomes, especially in outbreak settings. However, we still need to establish the probiotic strains and doses that provide the best results, and determine the safety of probiotics in immunocompromised patients.”

Taking probiotics alongisde antibiotics helped to prevent C.difficile diarrhea, however, it did not decrease the number of people who were infected with C.difficile.

Johnston concluded:

“We think it’s possible that probiotics act to prevent the symptoms of C. difficile infection rather than to prevent the infection itself. This possibility needs to be investigated further in future trials, which should help us to understand more about how probiotics work.”

In 2009, a study conducted at Georgetown University found that kefir, one of the world’s oldest “health” drinks, did little to prevent diarrhea in kids. The drink, which is rich in probiotics, did not show a positive outcome, however, researchers were surprised that it appeared to help the children in the study who were the least healthy.

Written by Kelly Fitzgerald