Runners diarrhea, known as the “runner’s trots,” occurs when long distance runners feel a sudden urge to have a bowel movement in the middle of their run. Although the cause isn’t clear, it is thought to be due to either decreased blood flow to the gut during extreme exercise or as a result of repetitive mechanical trauma. Most famously, Paula Radcliffe experienced this phenomenon en route to winning the 2005 London marathon. In full view of a packed crown and streaming live on TV, Paula Radcliffe stopped mid-race and relieved herself on the side of the road. It brings a whole new meaning to the term the runs.
Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, coined the term diarrhea. It is derived from the Greek words dia, meaning through, and rhein, to flow. So, diarrhea literally means “to flow through.” Aptly named. Nice work Hippocrates.
Our questions today though is, “Are probiotics useful in the treatment of diarrhea in kids?” First, let’s define probiotics. They are microorganisms, bacteria and yeast that, “when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” We will look at two different settings in which probiotics can by used by children, first in the treatment of the “stomach bug” and second in the prevention of diarrhea from antibiotic use.
Treatment of the “stomach bug”
The European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Heptaology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) reviewed a collection of clinical trials which studied probiotic usage in the treatment of acute gastroenteritis (the stomach bug). The ESPGHAN recommended the use of probiotics in the treatment of children with gastroenteritis. They deemed that the benefits gained outweigh the risks of consuming live micororganisms. The reported benefits include:
1) Probiotics have been shown to decrease the duration of diarrheal illness by one day.
2) Probiotics usage decreases the chances that a diarrheal illness will last 4 days or more.
More than 25 probiotic species were studied. However, only Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii were recommended. The remaining species were not found to both safe and effective.
Prevention of diarrhea from antibiotic use
The ESPGHAN also reviewed the literature concerning probiotic use concomitantly with antibiotics to prevent antibiotic associated diarrhea. Probiotic use was shown to decrease diarrhea from antibiotics by 52%. Once again, only Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii were shown to be effective. The remaining species need to be studied further.
Lastly, all probiotics contain live organisms. They should not be given to kids whose immune systems don’t work well unless instructed by their doctor.
An article from Infectious Diseases in Children was heavily referenced for this post. You can read it here.
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