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Gut Reaction

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We usually think of bacteria as being bad. The truth is, many bacteria are good, but antibiotics kill them all, which can lead to overgrowth of genuinely bad bacteria. This is especially true of bacteria found in the digestive tract, where an overgrowth of C Diff-- Clostridium difficile -- can cause severe diarrhea.

A new study finds taking probiotics – which are extra doses of good bacteria -- can help prevent this antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

The study, published in the Cochrane Collaborations, looked at medical evidence from 23 different studies of more than 400 adults and children. Although taking probiotics didn’t cut C diff infection rates, taking them did reduce chances of getting diarrhea by 60%.

Probiotics also have other uses. They’re sometimes recommended by doctors to help ease abdominal pain, bloating, and gas – symptoms caused by irritable bowel syndrome.

Probiotics come in many forms: capsules, tablets, packets, and powders – as well as fermented dairy products like yogurt and keifer.

But as with anything else, some probiotics are better than others. The good bacteria strains that showed the greatest benefits contained Saccharomyces boulardii and 2 lactobacillus strains: acidophilus and casei. It takes a lot of them to help: at least 10 billion colony-forming units of bacteria per day. That’s generally 2 to 4 pills.

But there’s a price to pay. A 30 day supply can cost about 30 bucks. But considering treatment for C DIFF infections can cost thousands, it’s probably worth it.