C. diff

Older man selecting medication from a store shelf.

Relying on Heartburn Drugs Too Much?

You may have experienced a big jolt when you saw the news about the FDA alerting consumers to the presence of a human carcinogen in the over-the-counter (OTC) heartburn drug ranitidine, most commonly known by its brand name, Zantac.

N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) is the very same carcinogen that prompted a recall of some prescription medications containing the generic drug valsartan (used to treat heart failure and high blood pressure).

Although the FDA was quick to say the amounts of NDMA found in ranitidine were barely above what may be found in common foods, that didn’t stop Sandoz/Novartis from halting the distribution of Zantac, pending a deeper investigation.

In the meantime, national drug store chains — Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS — have removed Zantac and its generic counterparts off their shelves.

A lot of heartburn drugs are sold via the OTC route, including proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like omeprazole magnesium (Prilosec) and lansoprazole (Prevacid) and H2 blockers like ranitidine and famotidine (Pepcid).

It’s no stretch to say that many of the 15 million Americans who are prescribed these heartburn drugs and the countless numbers of people who take them via the OTC route, do so for far longer than they should, even after their health problem has cleared up.

Even years!

Previously, we’ve warned you that taking PPIs creates unhealthy imbalances in the bacteria in your stomach that can leave you vulnerable to serious Clostridium difficile (C. diff) superbug infections.

Imagine side effects that are far worse…

Death due to heartburn drugs

A recent report featured in The BMJ tracked the mortality rates among more than 200,000 U.S. soldiers who had been newly prescribed either a PPI or H2 blocker drug for a decade.

Overall, long-term use of PPIs was associated with a 17 percent greater risk of death compared to H2 blockers. The uptick in mortality rates among PPI users was attributed to cardiovascular disease, stomach cancer and chronic kidney disease.

Two more factoids that should catch your attention, especially if you take PPIs or other heartburn drugs, either over-the-counter or by prescription:

  • More than 80 percent of PPI users were taking low doses of their prescribed drug, about the same as doses offered in OTC versions.
  • More than half of the patients were taking a PPI for no medical reason, even though it was prescribed to them.

“Most alarming to me is that serious harm may be experienced by people who are on PPIs but may not need them,” says Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, senior author of the study and assistant professor at Washington University’s School of Medicine. “Overuse is not devoid of harm.

“For those who have a medical need, PPI use should be limited to the lowest effective dose and shortest duration possible.”

What can you do?

Are you taking heartburn drugs based on your doctor’s advice or doing it on your own?

Have you been taking them longer than two weeks?

Do you schedule breaks between rounds of taking a heartburn drug by at least four months?

If you aren’t able to answer those questions immediately, it’s time to see your doctor for some advice.

In the meantime, here are some steps you can take to ease your heartburn symptoms without taking a drug:

  1. Cut out smoking for good.
  2. If you’ve been putting off losing weight, the time is now.
  3. Leave about two hours between the time you eat an evening meal and the time you go to bed.
  4. Before hitting the sack, elevate your pillow slightly to avoid a nighttime surge of stomach acid.
  5. Prevent disruptions in the critical balance of healthy bacteria in your gut — and avoid superbug infections — by taking a probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic containing 20 billion CFUs and 10 strains of beneficial bacteria.
illustration of C Diff bacteria

Protecting Your Child From C. Diff Diarrhea

When health experts talk about Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections in the news — the most common superbug that causes life-threatening diarrhea — it’s largely associated with overprescribing antibiotics to older people in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Those concerns are warranted, considering about 500,000 Americans are sickened by C. diff infections and nearly 30,000 die from them annually.

However, C. diff infections are equal-opportunity offenders that can be a serious problem for young children too, according to findings published recently in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

Based on a meta-analysis of 14 studies and 10.5 million children, prior exposure to antibiotics was the main culprit, nearly doubling the risk of C. diff infections in young children, compared to kids who hadn’t taken antibiotics.

But that’s not all…

Researchers also cited exposure to heartburn drugs — better known as proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) — as another C. diff risk factor for children. That’s not surprising given many adults rely on them too often and for too long at the expense of disrupting the healthy balance of their gut bacteria.

A study published last fall in the Journal of Microbiology, Immunology and Infection backs up this link between severe cases of C. diff related to children taking PPIs.

The concerns about PPI use are so critical and obvious that the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (connected with the National Institutes of Health) felt it was important enough to devote a detailed section to treating acid reflux in children and teens.

The good news: There’s growing consensus among health experts that taking a daily probiotic can be a very safe and effective solution for preventing C. diff infections altogether.

Additionally, recent scientific evidence has shown the benefits of treating patients with probiotics made with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria were very effective in preventing C. diff infections.

One safe and natural way to protect your young child from C. diff infections, especially if they are taking an antibiotic: Talk to your doctor about giving him/her a probiotic, like EndoMune Jr. Powder (recommended for children to age 3) or EndoMune Jr. Chewable Probiotic (ages 3-8).

Both varieties of EndoMune Jr. contain four strains of beneficial bacteria, along with a prebiotic (FOS).

a medical writing down a list of medication

The Best Weapon Against C. Diff: Probiotics

Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections are the most common superbug pathogens patients face in American healthcare settings (hospitals and long-term care facilities), largely due to doctors overprescribing antibiotics.

Some 500,000 patients are sickened by C. diff infections annually in America and nearly 30,000 lives (largely seniors) are lost as a result.

Fortunately, medical experts are coming around to the idea that less — in the case of antibiotics — is more and multi-strain probiotics may be better weapons for preventing these infections, based on a pair of studies published earlier this year in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

The first report — a metanalysis of 18 controlled trials and about 6,800 patients in 12 countries — found probiotics reduced the chances patients would be sickened by a C. diff infection by roughly two-thirds.

Moreover, multi-species probiotics (probiotics with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria) were much more beneficial to preventing C. diff infections, compared to single-strain probiotics.

Interestingly, probiotics were very effective in preventing C. diff infections in cases where patients were taking more than one antibiotic and in healthcare settings where the risks of infection were higher than 5 percent.

A second study, conducted in the Cook County Health System in Illinois, reported more positive results with multi-strain probiotics (featuring three of the 10 strains contained in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic) providing a long-term benefit.

Over a 12-month period of monitoring treatment with probiotics, reports of C. diff infections fell significantly during the final six months. During that time, patients took probiotics initially within 12 hours after receiving their first antibiotic dose until five days after completing their course of antibiotics.

It’s not surprising how protective and beneficial multi-strain probiotics can be for your health, given how effective they are in easing the symptoms of a variety of health conditions, including leaky gut, depression and constipation.

Even when you’re not actively taking antibiotics for a health condition, you may be surprised by how often you’ve exposed to them merely by eating meat or dairy products that retain traces of antibiotic-resistant germs that can trigger foodborne infections all on their own.

All the more reason you may want to consider taking a multi-strain probiotic like EndoMune to protect your health.

Do you really need an oral fecal transplant for a C. diff infection?

There’s no denying fecal transplants — the transferring of gut flora from a healthy donor to sick patients — can be helpful in treating Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections that contribute to diseases from colitis to diarrhea.

Transfers of healthy gut bacteria have been delivered via a variety of uncomfortable methods, ranging from tubes through the nose to the intestines (nasojejunal) and stomach (nasogastric) to endoscopies, colonoscopies and enemas.

However, the promising findings of a recent Journal of the American Medical Association report may be changing the delivery of fecal transplants for good.

After successfully testing the delivery of frozen fecal transplants to patients via nasogastric tubes and colonoscopy to treat patients earlier in the year, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital designed a study to test the efficiency of fecal transplant capsules.

To produce those capsules, stool samples were taken from healthy volunteers who had been screened for infectious diseases and avoided consuming common food allergens. Then, the samples were processed, placed into capsules and frozen for four weeks.

Feeling squeamish yet?

Scientists tested their frozen transplant on 20 patients between ages 11-84 who were suffering from a persistent or recurring C. diff infection. Over two consecutive days, each patient took 15 capsules per day. After an initial two-day treatment, the symptoms from 14 patients were completely resolved.

Then, after a second treatment with the remaining six patients (who were generally in poorer health) a week later, all but one were successfully treated. Over the eight-week trial, all but two patients responded successfully to the frozen fecal transplant capsules.

Despite the success of the study, Dr. Ilan Youngster (co-author of the study) warned patients, literally, not to experiment with fecal transplants at home. “While we are striving to make this treatment more accessible to patients, it’s important to remind people of the potential dangers of attempting ‘home brew’ FMT [fecal microbiota transplants] using fecal material from family members or friends.

“Many people can be carriers of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are shed in their stools but have no symptoms. It’s not enough to know your donor and just ask how he or she feels, as some websites suggest. In any form, this procedure should only be performed under strict medical supervision with material from thoroughly screened donors.”

The lesson to be learned from this study is pretty simple: If doctors encouraged their patients to take a probiotic when prescribing them antibiotics, doing that one thing would reduce the number of C. diff cases significantly.

Taking a probiotic about two hours after a prescribed antibiotic will reduce the risk of antibiotics depleting the live, beneficial bacteria that protect and improve your gut health naturally.

Taking a multi-species probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Advanced Junior (for kids) can give your immune system a much needed boost by improving the diversity of beneficial bacteria in your gut, and eliminate the need for a fecal transplant.

What is C diff colitis?

What is C diff colitis?

If you’re not protecting yourself from Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections, you should be. Chances are better than good, however, you don’t know what C. diff infections really are.

Brace yourself: It’s a “super” kind of bacteria that attacks the lining of your intestines. Worse? It’s on the rise in hospitals.

Earlier, we wrote about the negative effects of superbugs like C. diff, a bacterium known for causing antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Roughly 14,000 Americans die due to C. diff infections every year. Even worse, the number and severity of C. diff cases has exploded over the last decade.

Unfortunately, taking too many antibiotics is only partly to blame for the rise in superbugs. A recent study in Environmental Science and Technology concluded the spread of triclosan, a broad-spectrum antimicrobial compound commonly used in cosmetics, hand sanitizers and toothpastes, has created bacterial resistance problems in streams and rivers in the Midwest.

Although many major manufacturers are starting to phase out triclosan, the damage to our environment is already done. So, what’s the good news?

Recent research highlights several ways to curb C. diff infections:

  1. Try to avoid antibiotics during infancy and childhood as often as you can. This is even more important since antibacterial soap does more harm than good. You may think antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers are the safest things around, but triclosan may alter hormonal levels during development. Also, antibiotics can eradicate helpful gut bacteria that usually stop C. diff. Instead, overusing antibiotics causes C. diff to multiply at high levels.
  2. Breastfeed your children. Why fix what isn’t broken? Research has shown breastfeeding lessens the chance that the breastfed child will fall victim to C. diff infections in adulthood.
  3. Avoid the hospital if you can help it. Superbugs can find their way to you in a place that’s supposed to protect you from them. The number of C. diff infections from 2001-10
  4. Get a fecal transplant. While the very idea may seem disgusting, fecal transplants have proved to be very effective. These procedures can be performed via nasogastric tube, nasojejunal tube, upper tract endoscopy, colonoscopy and retention enema. The $64,000 question: Do you really need a fecal transplant? Probably not.
  5. Use a probiotic. You’d be surprised to learn how much a probiotic, like EndoMune, could help. A review of 31 randomized trials found probiotic use (when given with an antibiotic) reduces the risk of C. diff by 64 percent. According to the study, probiotics improve the balance of gut bacteria and reduce the amount of bad bacteria.

By taking these precautions, you can lower the chances of superbugs like C. diff harming you and your family.

What you need to know about fecal transplants

You’ve probably seen an increasing number of stories about the “wonders” of fecal microbiota transplants, the process of transplanting gut flora from a healthy donor to a patient suffering from Clostridium difficile infection (C. diff) that contributes to diseases ranging from diarrhea to colitis.

Fecal transplants may not be the perfect cure-all many patients are expecting, however. In fact, taking a multi-strain probiotic every day can go a long way toward preventing C. diff infections without the need for one.

Some background about C. diff

  1. Symptoms of this infection can range from inconvenient and mild (loose stools punctuated by abdominal pain or tenderness for a few days) to life-threatening and possibly fatal (loss of appetite, fever, weight loss, severe abdominal pain and even a hole in the intestines).
  2. Some 14,000 Americans die each year due to the effects of C. diff., out of 23,000 who perish due to antibiotic-resistant infections. Medical experts estimate 25 percent of patients who are treated for C. diff suffer recurrences, and half of them occur in stages.
  3. C. diff is a bacterium that resides in our intestines and, generally, will not cause harm because the normal, healthy bacteria in our gut will suppress its growth. The main reason C. diff becomes a problem: The overuse of antibiotics eliminate the good bacteria that fight infections.

 

After the success reported in a recent New England Journal of Medicine study conducted in the Netherlands, some medical experts believe fecal transplants have created “a lot of buzz for lots of illnesses” may show some potential for treating Parkinson’s disease, ulcerative colitis and celiac disease.

Simply put, the success of fecal transplants underscores the importance of good gut health that contributes to the total scope of health. But, do you really need one?

What follows are answers to common questions about fecal transplants.

Why have fecal transplants become so popular in treating gut health problems?

Fecal transplants have been shown to be safe and effective for C. diff-related diarrhea and colitis. It is known that ulcerative colitis and many other health disorders are related to an unhealthy balance of intestinal bacteria.  By giving a fecal transplant — which is really a “super probiotic” — it is possible to infuse healthy bacteria that can rebalance the intestinal flora and stop the immune mediated inflammation.

There are ongoing trials of fecal transplant for ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), pre-diabetes, autism, obesity and other conditions. Some of the results have been very promising.

What are the primary causes of C. diff that have pushed gastroenterologists to prescribe fecal transplants?

C. diff is a bacteria that has become a common hospital-acquired infection, especially when a patient is given an antibiotic that disrupts the normal intestinal bacteria.

C. diff produces severe diarrhea and colitis which will respond to specific antibiotic therapy. Unfortunately, there is a significant risk of relapse of the colitis. Some patients have become critically ill, especially after their third or fourth relapse. Drastic situations require drastic care.

There were case reports of patients responding to fecal transplant dating back to 1958. The medical community knew that it might work, but the “ick” factor had made it an unattractive therapy.

In 2010, there were reports that greater than 90 percent of patients were cured after a fecal transplant. Given the serious nature of a C. diff infection and the safe and rapid recovery after fecal transplants, physicians are now embracing its use.

Are fecal transplants FDA-approved procedures?

No, they are not. It is a real problem in that controlled clinical trails need to be done with sick patients who have C. diff, giving half a real fecal transplant and the other half a placebo to prove there is a statistical improvement, and that there are no serious side effects. Studies are now underway.

Because of the severity of the illness and the noted benefits, the FDA has issued a statement that “fecal transplants be used only on patients with C. diff who have not responded to any other therapy, and only after doctors make sure the patient understands the approach is ‘investigational’ and has ‘potential risks’.”

How much do fecal transplants cost?

The current standard treatment for C. diff is costly since expensive courses of medications may need to be given a number of times and, even then, the patient may need to be hospitalized.

The cost for a fecal transplant depends on how the transplant is delivered. It can be given as a retention enema or through a colonoscope or nasogastric tube. I would think depending on the route given, the total cost would be less than $3,000.

Can probiotics help in ways that fecal transplants cannot?

Probiotics have been shown in clinical trials to lessen the risk of developing a C. diff infection if given during the course of the antibiotic. Probiotics can lessen the risk of C. diff multiplying and causing colitis. It wouldn’t make sense to give a transplant to a healthy patient taking a prescribed antibiotic.

How can probiotics help by preventing C. diff and avoiding fecal transplants?

Probiotic bacteria produce antibacterial proteins that kill C. diff bacteria and also inhibit it from adhering to the intestinal lining cells. These properties of probiotic bacteria prevent C. diff from multiplying and producing toxic substances that cause diarrhea and colitis.

Just a reminder, it’s important to know when to take probiotics and antibiotics to get the maximum benefits from both. Taking antibiotics and probiotics two hours apart lowers the risk of the former, eliminating the live and beneficial probiotic bacteria that preserve and protect your gut health.

Photo source: CDC’s Public Health Image Library

Deficiencies in Regulating C. Diff

C. diff is a bacterial infection that spreads via fecal contamination and takes root once bad bacteria take over the intestinal bacteria balance.  This infection creates a number of increasingly serious symptoms like diarrhea, weakness, cramping, and vomiting.  It is a 100% preventable condition, but often times, a one-time C diff infection leads to long-term complications, health risks, or death.

Few hospitals and caregiver centers take the necessary action to prevent C. diff outbreaks.  The negligence occurs primarily due to budgetary restrictions.  However, the implications are dire.  Every year thousands of patients lose their lives to C. diff infections, which invade their digestive system, spreading spores taking over, and working against good and bacteria.  Antibiotics further the spread, preliminarily killing off the good bacteria needed to combat the digestive tract infection.

Take a probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic when taking a antibiotic may help prepare your gut to combat serious infections like C. diff.  The risk of approaching these infections with too light an attitude is dire.  In the article linked below, you’ll learn about the ways C. diff has been spreading in hospitals and the basic steps that can be taken to prevent future infection incidents.

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