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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.