Probiotics & Stomach Flu

Melted cream cheese
A large bowl of yogurt. (Image: Magone/iStock/Getty Images)

Stomach flu occurs when the bacteria in your stomach are out of balance. Bad bacteria has grown and multiplied, so now your stomach is overpopulated with bad bacteria. One way to treat your infectious diarrhea and restore your intestines back to good health is through probiotic therapy. Probiotics are commonly used by physicians to treat infectious diarrhea.

Balancing Bacteria

Trillions of good and bad bacteria live in your digestive tract and colon. E. coli is a type of bad bacteria that causes sickness and disease. Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria are good bacteria that protect you against sickness and disease. A constant battle goes on between good and bad bacteria to maintain a healthy balance in your intestine and colon. However, that healthy balance can be disrupted by two major factors — antibiotics and digestive illnesses. Antibiotics do not know the difference between good and bad bacteria, so they kills all bacteria. Infectious diarrhea is caused when viral gastroenteritis, stomach flu or other digestive illness causes bad bacteria to multiply and create an imbalance in your gut and colon. Probiotics can help restore proper balance of healthy bacteria in your intestine.

Infectious Diarrhea

Stomach flu, or viral gastroenteritis, is an intestinal infection. Symptoms are diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting and sometimes fever. The severity of the symptoms can be from mild to severe. The duration can range from one day to several days. Symptoms of viral diarrhea from stomach flu closely resemble symptoms of bacterial diarrhea which is caused by bad bacteria — salmonella, E. coli or parasites. A scientific paper on probiotics published in the journal “Clinical Infectious Diseases” in 2008 provides evidence that probiotics are effective for treating or preventing infectious diarrhea.

Strains and Dosage

Probiotic organisms include the Lactobacillus species, Bifidobacterium species, Streptococcus thermophilus and Saccharomyces boulardii, which is a type of yeast. These organisms have been researched extensively and are the probiotics most commonly used to treat medical conditions. The classes of probiotics used to treat infectious diarrhea from gastroenteritis, or stomach flu, are Lactobacillus species, Bifidobacterium species and Saccharomyces boulardii. The amount of the bacterial species in probiotics is measured as colony-forming units, or CFUs. The recommended daily dose of Lactobacillus species or Bifidobacterium species is between 100 million and 35 billion CFUs. For Saccharomyces boulardii, the recommended daily dose is between 250 and 500 milligrams. Consult with your doctor about prescribing probiotic therapy for your condition.

Fermented Dairy Products

The amount of probiotics in traditional yogurts does not contain a high enough dose to treat infectious diarrhea. Commercial brands also vary in the combination and the amount of strains. However, the article published in “Clinical Infectious Diseases” suggests a couple of commercial brands that are considered “therapeutic fermented dairy products.” Danactive is a therapeutic product that contains 10 billion CFUs of L. casei per serving. Activia is a therapeutic product that contains 5 to 10 billion CFUs of B. animalis per serving. Commercial brands Yo-Plus and Stonyfield yogurts contain the strains of B. lactis. and L. reuter, but the amount is not disclosed.

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