Probiotics shorten bouts of diarrhea

After a recent review of nine international studies, a researcher from the University of Washington reports that probiotics or “friendly bacteria” can shorten the duration of diarrhea in children.

“Probiotics” is a general term to describe any of a number of beneficial bacteria strains found in the human digestive tract. Probiotic supplements contain cultures that increase the body’s own natural store of beneficial bacteria. Lactobacillus acidophilus is one of the most familiar of these.

The researcher, Dr Cornelius Van Niel, found that supplemental Lactobacillus shortened the duration of diarrhea by about one day when compared with a placebo treatment. No side effects were observed.

“What makes this treatment so attractive is that it has little downside for its potential benefit,” Van Niel said.

Children with diarrhea should see a doctor if it lasts for more than five days, if the stools contain blood or mucus, or the children show signs of dehydration such as dry mouth or infrequent urination, he advised.

Source:Pediatrics 2002;309:678-684