An overlooked cause of diarrhea - and a surprising way to prevent it

November 28, 2007
Volume 04    |   Issue 48

If you?ve ever taken antibiotics, you may have experienced diarrhea afterward. If so, you may have had a common bacteria known as Clostridium difficile, or C. difficile. But this species of bacteria doesn?t just strike antibiotic users. It?s often spread through hospitals, nursing homes, and households. And what?s worse is that most people use the wrong antimicrobials to control it.

C. difficile is extremely difficult to control. Here?s why: It reproduces by making highly resistant spore-forming rods when it?s under stress. Then these spores produce new bacteria. Some antimicrobials may kill the C. difficile itself, but not the spores. The result is that more people get and stay sick.

So it?s vital you kill this bacteria before it hits. And the best way to do that is to keep your hands clean.

However, if you think the popular alcohol hand wipes and gels are the best method of controlling this bacterium, think again. Researchers at McGill University Health Centre found that when they compared alcohol-based products with regular soap, antiseptic soap (another alcohol-based solution), and a disinfectant towel. In fact, the alcohol-based solutions had almost no effect at all!

I spoke with the head researcher on this study, Michael Libman, and asked about the popular antibacterial alcohol gels on the market. The researchers did evaluate the gels and they also came up short. Why? Because C. difficile spores are resistant to alcohol.

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So how can you control C. difficile? Hands down, using just plain soap and water worked best. It killed more than 98% of the bacteria! Disinfectant towels were a close second, eliminating 95%.

There are two things to remember about diarrhea. First, use the best method available to keep it from spreading - wash your hands frequently with soap and water. And since an overgrowth of pathogenic (bad) bacteria often causes diarrhea, take plenty of friendly bacteria (such asAdvanced Probiotic Formula). I suggest three capsules morning and night for one week after the diarrhea stops. If you?re working around people who have C. difficile or other bacterial overgrowths, you may want to take one capsule twice a day to keep your populations of friendly bacteria strong.

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,


Clinical Infectious Diseases, October 15, 2007.

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