Health experts recommend probiotic drinks for patients taking antibiotics

Nutrition & Food Science

ISSN: 0034-6659

Article publication date: 18 July 2008



(2008), "Health experts recommend probiotic drinks for patients taking antibiotics", Nutrition & Food Science, Vol. 38 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Health experts recommend probiotic drinks for patients taking antibiotics

Article Type: Food facts From: Nutrition & Food Science, Volume 38, Issue 4.

An expert report recommends that patients taking antibiotics, especially those being treated in hospital, should take a daily probiotic drink with clinically proven effectiveness. The report summarises a meeting which took place at the Royal Society of Medicine, London and was attended by a multidisciplinary panel of eight leading health experts.

The meeting discussed current data surrounding the health benefits of dairy probiotic drinks, including latest studies focusing on the benefits of probiotics on antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhoea, colds and flu, and even cancer. As well as recommending probiotic drinks for people taking antibiotics in hospital, the panel concluded that probiotic drinks may benefit patients taking antibiotics in the community setting, and also called for additional research into this area.

It is well established that antibiotics can disrupt the normal balance of bacteria living in the intestine, making it easier for pathogens, or bad bacteria, to grow. In light of this, diarrhoea is a common side effect of antibiotics, especially when administered in hospitals where 5-30 per cent of patients develop this symptom, the rate increasing with broader-spectrum antibiotics. The effect on the patient may include a longer hospital stay, an increased risk of other infections and diseases and significant increases to the costs of patient care.

In 20-30 per cent of cases of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, the cause is the C. difficile pathogen, which can even lead to death, especially in older persons. However, there is growing evidence to support the positive influence of taking probiotic drinks, also known as good bacteria, as they can help people taking antibiotics offset the bad bacteria in their intestine, thereby reducing the risk and severity of diarrhoea.

Commenting on the report, Professor of Human Nutrition Research at the University of Reading, Ian Rowland said: “There is a growing bank of evidence to support the positive effects that probiotics have on antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. By studying this evidence as well as various patient case studies, the expert group were led to conclude that patients should take probiotics during and after their hospital stay to reduce the risk of acquiring antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, or if required, its severity and duration. In addition to this, there may also be reason to believe that a daily probiotic may also benefit those on antibiotics in the community, however further research is still needed in this area”.

When selecting a probiotic drink, people should choose one with a strain that has proven clinical evidence as benefits are strain-specific. There is also evidence to show that yoghurt or fermented milk-based probiotics may offer advantages over freeze dried capsules in that they may also provide potentially beneficial fermentation products.

In addition to antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, the expert panel also looked at other research and case studies where probiotics have been shown to offer beneficial effects. This included the benefits probiotics can offer older persons, especially those at risk of flu in winter, as well as evidence that exists to support probiotic use in reducing the duration and severity of diarrhoea in children. The panel agreed that both groups could benefit from taking a daily probiotic drink.

Professor Ian Rowland concluded: “In summary, the experts agreed that there are no harmful effects from taking probiotic drinks and evidence suggests that they may offer health benefits for people taking them. Further research is needed to examine the role of probiotic drinks in preventative care and health maintenance as well as in the treatment of other conditions”.

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