Probiotics improve diarrhoea symptoms, study shows

Probiotic bacteria can improve symptoms of diarrhoea and reduce the chance of repeat episodes, research shows.

Probiotics in addition to fluids can reduce duration of diarrhoea (Photograph: istock)
Probiotics in addition to fluids can reduce duration of diarrhoea (Photograph: istock)

Rehydration fluids are the usual standard treatment for diarrhoea, but these do not reduce length of illness.

A Cochrane review found that probiotics given in addition to these fluids can reduce duration of diarrhoea and the likelihood of episodes continuing for more than four days.

Last month, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said probiotic drinks could not be shown to improve digestion or boost the immune system as the health claims made by such products were too general.

But a previous Cochrane review suggested probiotics may help patients with diarrhoea by either eliminating or out-competing the bacteria, viruses or parasites responsible.

In the review, researchers assessed data from 63 trials involving 8,014 patients.

Patients treated with probiotics and rehydration fluids experienced one day shorter duration of diarrhoea.

The risk of diarrhoea lasting four or more days also fell by 59%.

Lead researcher Stephen Allen of Swansea University said: ‘There were no adverse effects, so these therapies can be used safely in addition to rehydration fluids.

'However, more research needs to be carried out on the specific strains of bacteria that are effective in treating diarrhoea and on preventing the progression from short-term to persistent diarrhoea.’

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