Cochrane Reviews are systematic reviews of scientific research in human health care and policy, and are known to be the most rigorous of scientific opinion. They base their analysis of dietary supplement studies very much in line with their analysis of drug studies. For this reason, Cochrane Reviews of dietary supplements are rarely positive. You see, herbs and nutrient, which often target multiple pathways in the body, do not work in the same way as drugs, which target one specific pathway in the body. When Cochrane Reviews are positive, however, you can be absolutely certain that you are looking at a beneficial supplement.

A recent Cochrane Review analyzed 23 trials involving over 4,200 adults and children taking antibiotics. Fully 64 percent less people who took probiotics along with the antibiotics suffered from diarrhea when compared to those who took placebo. Further, there were fewer adverse events in the group taking probiotics than in the group taking placebo. “In the short term, taking probiotics in conjunction with antibiotics appears to be a safe and effective way of preventing diarrhea associated with Clostridium difficile infection,” stated Bradley Johnston, PhD, lead researcher.

The probiotics were helpful against Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea, but they were not quite found to prevent the infection in the first place, according to the review. “We think it’s possible that probiotics act to prevent the symptoms of C. difficile infection rather than to prevent the infection itself,” noted Johnston. “This possibility needs to be investigated further in future trials, which should help us to understand more about how probiotics work.”

Some studies have found probiotics to be protective against C. difficile infection, however. Overall, if most of the studies do not agree, the Cochrane Review does not consider the evidence strong enough. Check out Dr. Smith’s blog for more info on probiotic benefits for this condition. This is not the first Cochrane Review to find probiotics beneficial for diarrhea, and I doubt it will be the last. Gut balance achieved with probiotics is key to avoiding digestive disruptions.