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Taking probiotics is a good way for antibiotics users to try to avoid diarrhea, a new study suggests.
The study found that people who took probiotics reduced the risk of developing antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) by 42 percent. For every 13 people who took probiotics, one person avoided getting diarrhea from antibiotics.
Probiotics are "good" microorganisms — mostly bacteria, and a few fungi — that benefit our health.
"There is an increasing interest in probiotic interventions, and evidence for the effectiveness of probiotics in preventing or treating AAD is also increasing,” the researchers wrote in their article, published today (May 9) in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Still, more research is needed to determine which probiotics work the best, and for which patients receiving which specific antibiotics, the researchers said.
Up to 30 percent of people taking antibiotics develop diarrhea, and sometimes the diarrhea is so severe that people stop taking their antibiotics as prescribed.
There are several ways that probiotics potentially fix the bacterial community in the gut, according to the study. Probiotic bacteria may compete with other bacteria for nutrients, or increase the acidity of the gut environment.
For the new findings, researchers pooled the results of 82 studies of probiotics involving 11,800 participants. Previous reviews looking at the effectiveness of probiotics had incorporated fewer studies or had focused on specific groups of patients, but had also found that probiotics reduced the risk of diarrhea, the researchers said.
In most of the studies, researchers looked at lactic-acid producing bacteria called Lactobacillus, which are commonly found in yogurt.
Taking probiotics does come with risks, the researchers noted. In rare cases, probiotics have been linked to serious side effects such as fungal and bacterial infections in the blood.