(CBS News) It's no secret to people who take antibiotics that the drugs can wreak havoc on a person's stomach. A new study says taking probiotics, which can be found in supplements or in certain brands of yogurt, may provide an effective way to prevent diarrhea during an antibiotic regimen.
For the study, published in the May 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers at the nonprofit RAND Corporation analyzed 63 previously published studies involving antibiotic-associated diarrhea and probiotics including Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, and/or Bacillus.
Most of the trials used Lactobacillus-based interventions alone or in combination with another type of probiotic. The researchers found people who took probiotics were 42 percent less likely to develop diarrhea during treatment compared with people not taking them. The researchers said since they looked across several studies with different criteria, there's no way to determine whether a certain type of person, antibiotic or probiotic could contribute to this effect.
"We found a clear beneficial effect of probiotics in preventing or treating antibiotic-associated diarrhea," study co-author Dr. Sydne J. Newberry, a nutritional scientist and a researcher at RAND, said in a news release. "However, more work is needed to determine which types of probiotics work best, which patients are most likely to benefit from probiotics and whether there are any risks in using them."
According to WebMD, almost one in three people who take antibiotics experience diarrhea. The side effect sometimes leads people to stop treatment early, increasing the risk of disease coming back.
"The good news is that a lot of extremely high-quality research is going on now," gastrointestinal disease researcher Dr. Eamonn Quigley of Ireland's University College Cork, told WebMD. "Up until now, most of the noise about probiotics has been generated by marketing, but it may soon be generated by the science." Quigley was not involved in the new research.
The study underscores the importance of maintaining a proper balance of microbes in the digestive tract, Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, a gastroenterologist at the NYU Langone Medical Center who was not involved in study, told USA Today. When people take antibiotics, the drugs kill not only the bad bacteria that cause illness but also the good bacteria that help regulate the intestines, she said. A commentary published in Nature last summer called for more careful prescribing of antibiotics in pregnant women and babies who are just establishing good bacteria in their gut, reported.
According to the Mayo Clinic, probiotics have also been tied to treatment benefits for yeast infections, irritable bowel syndrome, eczema in children, and reduces the severity of colds and flu.