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August 03, 2017

Antibiotic associated diarrhea (AAD) is a condition where the child passes watery, loose stools for three times or more in a day while on antibiotics.  The severity of diarrhea can vary widely with some children experiencing mild diarrhea that settles down fast. But for some children, diarrhea can be severe leading to dehydration and fatigue.  On an average AAD can develop on the second day of antibiotic use, but can also occur on the first day and last for seven to eight days. In rare cases, diarrhea can go on for up to two weeks even after discontinuing the antibiotic.


Why do antibiotics cause diarrhea?

Antibiotics are usually prescribed when bacterial infections are suspected. Many respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses are brought about by bacteria.  Most antibiotics can cause diarrhea in children including penicillin and cephalosporin based drugs, amoxicillin and cefixime being familiar names in this genre.

Antibiotics work by destroying disease causing bacteria, but can also eliminate beneficial gut bacteria. The human gut is made up of millions of bacteria and the beneficial ones play a major role in maintaining gut health. The “good” bacteria do this by keeping certain toxic microbes such as Clostridium difficile (C.diff) in check. When this delicate balance is disrupted by antibiotics, C.diff can start to multiply and result in AAD.

Probiotics and their role in preventing AAD

Probiotics are live beneficial organisms that can provide health benefits including controlling AAD. Probiotics are available in many natural fermented foods and as supplements. In some countries, some foods are fortified with probiotics as well. Yogurt, Tempeh-a fermented soybean product, and Kefir which is a fermented drink made from yeast, bacteria and milk.

A 2015 Cochrane review examined 23 studies on the use of probiotics to control AAD. The researchers found that twenty-two studies show probiotics are effective in preventing AAD.  In these studies, the incidence of AAD was 8% in children who received probiotic strains while it was 19% in those who received a placebo. An earlier meta-analysis found that probiotics were effective in lowering the risk of AAD by 64% in both adults and children.

Another systematic review of random clinical trials published in the Journal of Paediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition (JPGN) also reported that probiotics reduced AAD risk by 52%. Probiotics also do not cause any other adverse reactions in children in the age group between one month and 18 years as was reported in a review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Disclaimer: The vitamin health information published on this web page is solely intended for educational purposes. VitaminsOnly strongly recommends to consult health care professionals for any questions concerning your health.

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