Bounce back from the stomach bug with probiotics?

Whether you're talking to your neighbors, friends or relatives, odds are someone you know just had a bout with the stomach bug.  It's what's going around.  But could probiotics be the answer to helping kids bounce back after having it?

We've heard a lot about probiotics over the past few years, these are the good bacteria believed to aid in digestive health. They're found in yogurt and cheese or can be taken as dietary supplements. Now doctors are trying to determine if probiotics can help young patients recover after a bad stomach bug.

Six-year old Luke Turmelle is in constant motion. That's why his parents knew something was wrong when all he could do was sleep after a bad stomach bug caused excessive diarrhea.

"When he got to the emergency room he was very dehydrated. That's why he was so weak," said Yumi Turmelle, Luke's Mother.

Severe gastroenteritis is responsible for one million pediatric medical visits every year.  By the age of five, one in 278 kids will be hospitalized and one in 14 will visit the emergency room. Experts say there's no safe medicine that will help.

"Anti-diarrheal that are used for adults are dangerous in kids; we cannot prescribe them. So when a patient comes to the emergency room with diarrhea, we can't offer them anything," said David Schnadower, MD, MPH, Pediatrician of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

But now, Schnadower and his colleagues are testing probiotics as an option.

"There are a lot of studies that show that probiotics are safe. We're not sure if they're effective, or not,"  Schnadower explained.

Schnadower is leading a trial of 900 kids ages three months to four years who seek emergency treatment for the stomach bug. Kids will receive either a probiotic or a placebo for five days. Researchers will check at five days and two weeks to see if the probiotic lessened the length and severity of diarrhea.

Yumi Turmelle is not only a mom, but a pediatrician so she knows kids can go downhill fast if they can't hold fluids.

"If they could have avoided that extra day of dehydration that wound him up in the emergency room, it would have helped," she said.

And she added, her son would have been feeling better, faster.

Schnadower and his colleagues are testing one of the most commonly used probiotics; Lactobacillus-G-G or L-G-G, which is sold over the counter as Culturelle.  While L-G-G appears to be safe, Schnadower says it is too soon to recommend it for treatment of symptoms. He says this study will be the longest study ever that may offer an additional treatment option for emergency room physicians and parents.

Additional Information:

Probiotics are good bacteria or yeast that assist in digestion and help keep the intestines healthy. Some of these probiotics are Lactobacillus, Streptococcus salivarius and Saccharomyces boulardi. Probiotics also offer protection from harmful bacteria that can cause harm to the body. These good bacteria are also believed to help with the health of the immune system by secreting certain helpful chemicals. Probiotics are usually used to aid in fighting diarrhea and other stomach bug symptoms but are also known to help prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections, UTI's, irritable bowel syndrome, and prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu.  Probiotics are found in many different forms which include powders, tablets, capsules and foods such as yogurts and other dairy foods and drinks. Probiotics work by balancing the good bacteria within the intestines.

GASTROENTERITIS: Like many children in the U.S. Luke Turmelle contracted severe gastroenteritis or the stomach flu. Gastroenteritis is a common infection of the gut that causes diarrhea, vomiting and pain. The severity of gastroenteritis can range from a mild tummy upset for a day or two with mild diarrhea, to severe diarrhea and vomiting for several days or longer. Many viruses or bad bacteria can cause the symptoms of gastroenteritis. Food poisoning, eating food infected with microbes, is a bacterial infection that can cause some cases of gastroenteritis. One of the main risks involving gastroenteritis is dehydration. If you contract the stomach flu make sure to stay extremely hydrated with water or other hydrating supplements. Also, probiotics are known to add to the good bacteria in the gut stopping the flu from progressing.

PROBIOTICS IN KIDS: More and more research is still being performed on the effectiveness of probiotics, but researchers are claiming that probiotics can be used in children. A study in the journal Pediatrics found that preschool children attending daycare in Mexico who took probiotics every day for three months had less respiratory infections and diarrhea than those who took a placebo. Although probiotics are likely safe, many may be skeptical about giving probiotics to their children because it is still not completely clear how effective they are or what the long-term effects may be. Before giving your child a probiotic, check with your doctor first to get a recommended brand and the correct dosage.