Clostridium difficile, also known as C-difficile and C-diff, is a bacterium that can cause a wide range of medical problems. C-diff is usually treated with antibiotics. Eating a well balanced diet can support overall health and prevent recurring C-diff infections. Dietary interventions can also help to control symptoms and side effects of a C-diff infection.
According to the Mayo Clinic, C-diff occurs most frequently in older adults in hospitals and long-term care facilities. C-diff is spread through fecal matter and infection can be due to improper hand washing. C-diff infections are common after being on antibiotics because antibiotics kill beneficial bacteria in the body that normally balance out harmful bacteria and prevent bacterial infections. Symptoms of a C-diff infection include watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain, fever, nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss and dehydration.
A C-diff infection can cause watery diarrhea up to 10-15 times a day, according to the Mayo Clinic. Severe diarrhea can lead to dehydration which can cause serious health problems and be life- threatening. Foods that may help to alleviate diarrhea include starchy foods such as potatoes, rice, wheat, pasta and crackers. The NIH recommends avoiding caffeine, dairy products, sugary foods and greasy, high-fat foods, because these may increase diarrhea.
People with C-diff need to drink adequate amounts of water to prevent dehydration. Individuals with severe diarrhea may also need to replace their electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals like sodium, potassium and magnesium that are important for fluid balance, muscle activity and nerve function. According to the Mayo Clinic and NIH, beverages that contain electrolytes are composed of water, sugar and salt. Examples include fruit juice, soft drinks, broths or soups and sports beverages.
Probiotics are live organisms that benefit health by balancing healthy and harmful bacteria in the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, Saccharomyces boulardii is a probiotic thought to help prevent recurrent C-diff infections when used with antibiotics to treat the condition. Modern Medicine says that the probiotics Lactobacillus GG and Lactobacillus acidophilus have also been used to prevent recurrent infections. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, probiotics are available in foods and dietary supplements. Foods that contain probiotics include yogurt, miso, tempeh and some juices and soy beverages.
It is important for individuals to maintain a nutritious diet as much as possible when infected with C-diff to prevent weight loss and malnutrition. According to the Mayo Clinic, poor nutrition weakens the immune system, which can increase the risk of recurrent C-diff infections. A diet to prevent malnutrition should include a variety of nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products. Individuals who are affected with C-diff and lose their appetite or are unable to consume an adequate diet may require vitamin or mineral supplements.