‘No evidence’ for probiotics against diarrhea

A common idea falls by the wayside.

Probiotics do not treat diarrhea, study says.

Probiotic supplements do not prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea in elderly patients, according to a study published in The Lancet.

The results of the study showed that the patients who were prescribed the probiotics saw no effect of reduced AAD [antibiotic-associated diarrhea], with 1 in 10 still reporting the occurrence.

The study revealed that both the groups prescribed the probiotics, and the group who received the placebo had the same frequency and severity of diarrhea.

Additionally, there were similar numbers in both groups whose diarrhea was caused by Clostridium difficile.

The researchers say these results conclude that probiotics have no beneficial effect for AAD.”

It’s not too surprising that this study shows probiotics have no efficacy. The gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria constituting thousands of different species, probiotic supplements contains only 6 billion or so bacteria and typically only one species, the most common being Lactobacillus spp. The idea of good bacteria versus bad bacteria is generally a myth, nearly all the bacteria in the gut are beneficial in normal amounts, only when antibiotics provide the conditions for species like Clostridium difficile to thrive are there problems, which supplementing with a comparatively small number of external bacteria isn’t going to help.

An emerging therapy that does seem to work well is a faecal transplant from a close relative or housemate administered by tube or tablet form.

My video explains the situation in more detail

  4 comments for “‘No evidence’ for probiotics against diarrhea

  1. August 15, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    I’ve heard before of fecal transplants…but the notion still makes my hair stand on end.

  2. August 15, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    vagrarian– My grandmother died of C. diff, before fecal transplants became a non-non-standard therapy. The thought that a little intestinal bacteria from myself or my mom (both health nuts) could have saved her life today… When faced with life/death, youd get over that icky feeling real quick.


  3. August 15, 2013 at 9:22 PM

    The faecal transplant sounds much worse than the reality. I don’t think at any point you have to taste poo, the technique is being refined all the time.

  4. August 16, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    Sigh. I have IBS & thought that probiotics might help. Good thing I didn’t waste any money on pills. I like yogurt, tho, and had hopes that it would help. Oh well. 🙁

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