C. diff causes diarrhea and colitis of varying severity and can become life-threatening if the infection moves to the blood. The infection can recur and develop antibiotic-resistance, adding to its potential for harm.
How can antibiotic treatment lead to an infection?
When you take antibiotics, healthy bugs are killed too. These bugs normally keep a healthy intestinal pH, maintain immune balance, and crowd out bad guys with a diverse ecosystem.
When that diversity is gone, pathogenic organisms like C. diff overgrow and can become infectious.
Current Medical Approach
Medicine will turn to standard antibiotics to treat a C. diff infection. But as antibiotics can be an initial trigger of C. diff overgrowth in the first place, this approach is sometimes necessary, but not without its limitations.
C. diff is also a natural inhabitant of the gut. It becomes opportunistic and dangerous when all of the other microbes are thrown off (or lacking diversity) that it becomes opportunistic and dangerous. So if you do not address long-term dietary change, and you keep turning to antibiotics, do not maintain healthy probiotics, sooner or later, antibiotic resistance will develop and the future risks can start to compound – especially as you age.
The use of fecal transplants is a new “cutting edge” option for ridding C. diff.
Yes, the procedure transplants poop from a healthy donor to an infected person. The feces from a healthy donor will contain a diverse balance of healthy microbes. When the feces are transplanted to the infected person, microbe diversity & balance is restored. Research has shown the transplant can restore healthy flora and crowd out opportunistic pathogens like C. diff.
It’s increasingly covered by the media and due to the profit-potential of an advanced procedure – you’re seeing it pop up in the scientific literature a lot too. It’s discussed not only for gut infections – but for weight loss, diabetes, and other conditions that can relate to the gut and microbiome.
I don’t like it. I don’t like the false sense of security it creates in our minds.
Why bother changing your lifestyle when you can just borrow poop from someone who has a healthy lifestyle?
And, making it more enticing…the procedure will likely be covered by insurance.
For now, its use is not widespread, and the FDA has limited approval only to those with antibiotic-resistant C. diff infections.
As great as the technology is, I don’t love the direction it takes us. Even if it is covered by insurance, the co-pays and fees are still likely to be higher than taking on a supplement and lifestyle approach. And, as soon as you go back to eating the same foods and living the same lifestyle – sooner or later, you’ll be back where you started.
A fecal transplant procedure can be expensive and invasive compared to alternatives.
As you might guess, the “yuck factor” of fecal transplants is not favorably viewed by candidates either (1).
You know mainstream media is not going to cover the restorative potential of natural products. Talking about transplanting poop person-to-person is sure to make for click-worthy headlines!
So what proactive options does that leave us with aside from conventional antibiotics?
Let’s consider which probiotics to take during and after antibiotic treatment with C. diff.
Probiotics Taken During or After Antibiotics
Probiotics can help reduce C. diff growth by these mechanisms:
- Competition with pathogens for growth,
- Direct interference with C. diff metabolism
- Immune stimulation and modulation
- General maintenance of intestinal health (1; 2).
Saccharomyces boulardii, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Bacillus probiotics (Bacillus coagulans and Bacillus subtilis) can be taken during or after antibiotic treatment to help maintain gut flora, reduce the potential severity virulence of infection, and actively keep C. diff levels at bay.
The use of the probiotic yeast, Saccharomyces boulardii,’ has been well-regarded in the literature (3; 4). Clinical trials demonstrate S. boulardii may prevent C. diff recurrence, but its use may be limited to a first-time infection (5; 6).
Lactobacilli probiotics may also have difficulty making it past the acidic stomach intact. Their health benefits may result from immune activation and modulation by dead Lactobacilli cells and not via a true colonization of the intestinal tract. A high-quality and high-dose Lactobacilli product may help counteract these claims. I tend to use Bacillus probiotics foremost to ensure entry past the gut. Lactobacilli probiotics are also sometimes overgrown in Small Intestinal Bowel Overgrowth – and sometimes can aggravate gut rebalancing early on.
Alternatively, levels of Lactobacilli (and other healthy flora) can be promoted indirectly by consuming prebiotics. Prebiotics are fibers and starches that feed and maintain gut flora. Prebiotics can come from diverse vegetables or can be supplemented. Rather than supplementing with Lactobacilli directly, I’ve turned to a prebiotic approach more over the last few years. It’s more affordable and helps to better sustain results long-term in my opinion.
When you eat, you are eating for two – you and your flora!
With any treatment choice, once you heal the gut, you must maintain it by eating as many different types of vegetables as you can muster. If you go back to a diet that caused an imbalance in the first place – you’re asking for future trouble no matter how comprehensive your care plan.
Monolaurin, Soil-Based Probiotics, and Saccharomyces boulardii
When it comes to C. diff infections, generally I will assume that someone is taking antibiotics, but is concerned about making sure it stays away once addressed. In other cases, someone may have had a problem in the past and is just concerned about repeat infection.
For natural antimicrobial support, I use Lauricidin (monolaurin). First, it’s safe to take alongside conventional antibiotics, and it hasn’t been shown to cause resistance.
Monolaurin decreases the growth of gram-positive organisms such as C. diff while also helping to reduce its release of microbial toxins (exotoxins) into the blood. Monolaurin is unique because it also largely leaves alone gram-negative bacteria like Lactobacilli. So you essentially clear out bad guys, while leaving the good.
Monolaurin was discovered in breast milk – and helps to maintain gut health in the breastfeeding infant while also protecting from certain bacteria, viruses and yeast. Lauricidin is easy to personalize intake as it comes in bead-like pellets. You can start with just a few pellets and work your way up – taking it three times per day.
Probiotic Support Taken During and After Gut Infection:
Us of soil-probiotics such as Bacillus coagulans is widespread in Europe, but their use is still catching on in the US. Bacillus coagulans is unique in that it has been shown to not only improve outcomes during C. diff. treatment, but also prevent recurrence (9; 10).
Mice treated with vancomycin often experience a recurrence of C. diff symptoms following treatment. One study demonstrated that mice treated concurrently with Bacillus coagulans survived longer and had better bowel consistency and metabolic markers following vancomycin treatment.(9; 10).
While there are a number of ways to approach C. diff infections naturally and medically, I personally use Lauricidin, Megasporebiotic & RestorFlora in my gut protocol. This combination gives direct antimicrobial support, and takes advantage of high-dose Bacillus probiotics (found in Megaspore) and S. boulardii (found in RestorFlora).
As these are potent formulations – if you start killing too much at once – it can create a back-up in your ability to detoxify the wastes. As a general rule, start low and work your way up, especially when combining! I may also have to open up the capsules of Megaspore and sprinkle it in food or liquid when first starting. The capsule contents are heat-stable and have no taste.
Other practitioners seem to be getting best results when also adding HU58 to the mix – which is a new product that contains a high dose strain of Bacillus subtilis. HU58 is intended to take alongside Megaspore in support of more difficult (and potentially more serious) gastrointestinal imbalances – such as C. diff.
So if you don’t want to mess around, consider adding HU58 as well.
I most cases, you will be taking an antibiotic concurrently with the supplements. So be mindful that you’re not necessarily fully substituting for standard medical care. C. diff is not typically something you want to toy around with. Of course, you do not need to wait until you have C. diff overgrowth to be motivated to fix your gut microbes. Most of us could benefit from some gut reconditioning using these same strategies.
Megasporebiotic has been demonstrated to heal markers of leaky gut in a clinical trial (11). Leaky gut is usually present with any flora imbalance and allows inflammatory proteins and bacterial toxins to easily migrate into the bloodstream. In other words…
If you want to keep poop out of your bloodstream…heal leaky gut!
Using these products in combination can make a strong difference in outcomes. All have good support behind them for yeast overgrowth too. If you have gut imbalance – it’s a strong guess that yeast is involved as well at least 2/3rds of the time.
Prebiotics are important to maintain gut health long-term. I use Biotagen by Klaire labs, yet many other blends exist that you may find helpful. Start low and work up. If bloating or constipation occurs with prebiotics, you may be introducing them too early (or too much). If you have this reaction, it shows you need the support – just work with your body’s tolerance, and maybe get a little more aggressive with your initial probiotic/antimicrobial strategy.
When treating bacterial overgrowth, you may want to limit prebiotics in food (Low FODMAP diet) and gradually reintroduce them via supplementation or food sources. This process can take as little as 3-month but can last 6-12 months as you personalize your own strategy. There are many resources available online to help you with these strategies. Of course, there are many paths and supplement strategies to lead to the same place, these are the specific strategies I turn to foremost.
6-12 months may sound excessive, yet as tricky as gut restoration can be, the health of your gut is critical to wellness as you age. You may take a step forward and back a few times until you find a strategy that works. When it comes to the gut and C. difficile, the long path is often the shortest path to reduce incidence, improve outcomes and most importantly, prevent recurrence.