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People who eat yogurt while being treated with antibiotics are less likely to develop diarrhea as a side effect of the medication, reports a new study in Digestive Diseases and Sciences. Antibiotic-associated diarrhea may occur in up to 39 percent of people treated with antibiotics. Supplementing with probiotic agents such as Lactobacillus acidophilus (a beneficial bacterium found in the colon) while taking antibiotics has been found to effectively prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Because yogurt often contains a mixture of several strains of beneficial bacteria, it has been used to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea. However, until the present study, the effectiveness of yogurt had not been substantiated.
The current study investigated the use of yogurt for the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea in 202 hospitalized patients receiving oral or intravenous antibiotics. Participants, whose average age was 70, were randomly assigned to receive or not receive eight ounces yogurt of containing one million cultures per gram of L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus two times daily for eight days. Treatment was initiated within 12 hours of starting antibiotics. The incidences of diarrhea, bloating and frequent bowel movements were assessed in both groups. The yogurt-treated group had much lower rates of diarrhea compared with the control group, and of those people who developed diarrhea, the group receiving yogurt had significantly shorter bouts. There were no differences between groups in the incidence of bloating or of frequent bowel movements.
Antibiotics may disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in the intestines. When the beneficial bacteria decrease, other harmful bacteria may multiply and cause symptoms, including diarrhea. The exact mechanism of protection is not known, but may be related to the replenishment of normal flora in the intestines or to changes in the immune system. Lactobacillus strains increase antibodies that line the intestines and also decrease inflammation.
Note: Make sure you check the label on the yogurt you buy to make sure it contains live active cultures. You also can take acidophilus supplements that contain many strains of live active cultures.