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If you’re experiencing symptoms associated with c diff, or clostridium difficile, you’re undoubtedly considering trying C diff treatments on your own. It’s mostly diarrhea with some stomach cramping, right? Surely, you don’t need a doctor? Aren’t most C diff treatments just anti-diarrheal? Wrong, wrong, and absolutely not.
Just treating the symptoms—diarrhea, cramping, stomachache, fever—isn’t going to make an active C diff infection disappear. Remember, people do die from C diff. Treatments must be geared toward killing the bacteria that’s made a home in your intestines.
Even the wrong antidiarrheal medications can do more harm than good as C diff treatments. Experts from the C Diff Foundation say antidiarrheal over-the-counter medicines like loperamide (Imodium), diphenoxylate (Lomotil), and bismuth medications (Pepto-Bismol), can slow the movement of fecal material through your body, which means the toxins stay in your intestines for a longer time. The longer they’re there, the more they lay down stakes.
C diff is a potentially antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection—the CDC calls it one of the greatest threats in antibiotic resistance—that is easily spread anywhere bad hygiene reigns. Getting physician-ordered antibacterial C diff treatments started quickly is important, but some supportive C diff treatments can be helpful.
Fecal Replacement on the Horizon
According to the GI Society, researchers have had success transplanting healthy donor stool into the intestines of those ill with C diff. The rationale is that the donor stool has healthy microbiota, which the ill person needs. At follow-up, researchers found that healthy good bacteria remains in the patient who had the C diff long after the initial transplant. This is not yet a widely used technique, however, and much more research needs to be done.
How to Manage C diff Symptoms
It’s important to look for C diff treatments that can manage the symptoms as well as prevent re-infection. For starters, because even mild-to-moderate diarrhea results in dehydration, keeping your fluid intake up is essential, especially if you’re also battling a fever, so drink plenty water and other clear liquids.
Although you probably don’t feel like eating, your diet does matter. Avoid dairy, wheat, spicy dinners, and high-fiber foods, which may further irritate your already sensitive digestive tract. Dinners consisting of soups and cooked vegetables can help slow and settle your digestive tract, bringing more fluids to the intestines.
Probiotics are helpful in the treatment of C diff, but they’re even stronger as a preventative, arming your body to fight off a potential C diff invasion. They’re also a strong antidiarrheal support. The probiotic supplements you want contain healthy colon bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, other strains of Lactobacilli, and a yeast named Saccharomyces boulardii.
Yogurts that contain live cultures can help, too. One hospital won an award for having all patients taking antibiotics consume yogurt daily to help control the incidence of C diff. That’s because probiotics, like the ones found in live-culture yogurt and probiotic supplements, bring good bacteria that restores normal gut flora and digestive function.
Antibiotics to Treat C diff
C diff treatments must target the bacteria causing the infection to actually work. However, if the infection was triggered by an antibiotic—especially a broad-spectrum antibiotic—simply taking you off that antibiotic can begin the healing process in mild cases. The reason some antibiotics set the stage for a C diff infection is because a potential side effect of ingesting these life-saving medications is that they can kill off the good bacteria in your intestine. The decrease in good gut bacteria allows the C diff bacteria to thrive and damage the intestinal lining.
In order to kill the bacteria, you’re going to need an antibiotic. According to the American Society of Gastroenterology, three antibiotics are generally chosen to treat C diff:
1. Metronidazole (Flagyl) is an antibiotic used to treat parasitic and bacterial infections. It’s a cost-effective, first-line treatment for mild-to-moderate C diff symptoms. If there’s no improvement in five to seven days, your physician may switch you to vancomycin.
2. Vancomycin (Vancocin) is an antibiotic that targets bacterial infections. It’s usually injected, but for C diff, it’s given orally so it makes its way to the intestines. In February 2017, the JAVMA Internal Medicine ran a study that concluded vancomycin might be the best choice for first-line treatment of severe C diff.
3. Fidaxomicin (Dificid) is the first FDA-approved antibiotic specifically for C diff. It pinpoints the C diff bacteria with minimal disruption to healthy bacteria in the GI tract. In 2011, The New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a study that concluded fidaxomicin was associated with a lower rate of recurrence of C diff.
Reinfection with C diff is common. In order to get rid of it, absolute pristine hygiene practices must be put in place with a bacteria-killing antimicrobial solution to kill the hardy bacteria in the environment. Your physician may also recommend you take bezlotoxumab (Zinplava) in conjunction with one of the antibacterial drugs listed above. Zinplava is a drug that specifically stops C diff reinfection.
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