3 Top Probiotics to Fight Clostridium Difficile (C. diff) Infection
8 minute read
Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, is a bacterium that you may not have heard of, but you should definitely know. This sneaky little bacterium can cause health problems ranging from diarrhea to fatal intestinal inflammation.
Healthy and young individuals are developing C. diff even when they have no history of antibiotic use or extended stays in health care facilities. This new discovery has researchers looking a little closer at this potentially lethal bug to develop a better understanding of where it comes from and how we can beat it.
The good news is that there are probiotic supplements you can take that will help to naturally combat this potentially dangerous bacterium. As it turns out, we may be able to fight these bad bacteria with good bacteria.
Getting to Know Your Enemy
While the bacterium is typically found in older adults that are in long-term care facilities, it has recently been found in more individuals that are not considered high-risk.
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C. diff also shows up after prolonged periods of antibiotic use, which seems ironic given the fact that antibiotics are supposed to protect us from bacteria.
Every year, close to half a million people get sick from C.diff, indicating a strong increase in the prevalence of this bacterium. The microorganism actually exists all around us in the air, soil, water, and in both human and animal feces.
In some cases, this bacterium lives among the bacterial colony in your gut, but symptoms may never develop.
It seems that certain courses of antibiotics trigger a reaction in C. diff and cause symptoms to develop. These can range from mild diarrhea and abdominal cramping to more severe issues, such as:
♦ Long-lasting diarrhea
♦ Accelerated heart rate
♦ Severe and persistent abdominal cramping
♦ Blood or pus in the stool
♦ Weight loss
♦ Swollen abdomen
The C. diff bacteria does not affect everybody and is most common among the elderly and individuals that spend extended amounts of time in hospitals and health care facilities. The startling discovery of the bacteria affecting other individuals has caused a deeper focus to be given to the bacterium.
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Spores from C. diff can be passed through feces and food as well as from surfaces and objects. An individual can transfer the spores as a carrier. They may not be aware they even have the bacteria, as symptoms do not develop in everyone.
Sadly, the spores from C. diff can survive for weeks, even months on a surface, so regular hand-washing and sanitizing of surfaces is a necessity.
The link between antibiotics and C. diff lies in your natural gut colony of bacteria. Typically the bacteria in your gut support overall health, but antibiotics cause a shift in the delicate microbiome balance.
Your gut should generally house a large enough population of bacteria to protect you from more dangerous strains. However, beneficial probiotic supplements are ideal for ensuring this helpful population stays strong.
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Antibiotics will kill any invading pathogens but will also wipe out some of the beneficial bugs in your gut, as they are indiscriminate in their actions. This leaves your immune system in a weakened state and opportunistic bacterium like C. diff get the chance to come out of hiding and take over.
Once established, C. diff produces toxic materials that destroy the lining of your gut and trigger a mass inflammatory response.
Probiotics to Beat the Bacterium
Probiotic supplements are the best way to restore the balance of the natural bacterial colony in your gut. Poor diet and the use of antibiotics can cause these beneficial floras to become depleted, and probiotics can help restore numbers.
When the balance is in favor of beneficial strains again, bacteria like C. diff don’t stand a chance.
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Specifically, there are three probiotic bacterial strains that have been shown to combat C. diff effectively. Incorporating these strains into your regular diet or taking in supplement form can prevent the harmful bacteria from taking over or if taken after infection, symptoms can be reduced and recovery will be much faster.
S. Boulardii: This is probiotic yeast, which has been shown to counteract the activities of C. diff within your gut. This beneficial yeast can inhibit the activities of inflammatory markers as well as reduce intestinal wall permeability. These actions reduce inflammation and prevent C. diff toxins from binding. A protease secreted by the S. Boulardii inhibits the production of the toxins produced by C. diff, which prevents it from damaging your intestinal walls.
Lactobacillus: This is a species of probiotics that have been used in numerous studies to combat the effects of C. diff. These bacteria have the ability to colonize in your gut and can protect you from pathogenic invaders.
They produce lactic acids and other chemicals that inhibit the colonization of harmful bacteria like C. diff. The presence of these bacteria also promotes a healthy gut environment and can treat diarrhea, which is a major symptom of C. diff infections.
Bifidobacteria: When C. difficile strains begin to grow and spread as a result of antibiotic depletion of your host bacteria, probiotics with bifidobacteria can help tip the balance back into favor.
The regulatory actions of bifidobacteria combat the symptoms of C. difficile, specifically inflammatory-related destruction. By preventing inflammation, bifidobacteria allows your gut time to heal and replenish healthy stores of beneficial bacteria.
This probiotic strain also directly inhibits the growth of C. diff, which means symptoms of the infection can be reduced much more quickly.
The Bottom Line
Probiotic supplements that contain these three beneficial bacterial strains are ideal for fighting a C. diff infection. While continued research is needed, it is believed that regular consumption of probiotics with these strains can keep C. diff bacteria in check, thereby preventing them from taking over even in the presence of antibiotics.
Your gut microbiome has a natural way of protecting you from invading pathogens. Antibiotics are prescribed to help clear up infections, but with time they increase our risk of developing infections from opportunistic bacteria like C. diff.
A natural, well-rounded probiotic supplement will be your best defense against C. diff and will support the overall health of your bacterial security system.