Q. Recently I needed to have a tooth extracted. The periodontist prescribed amoxicillin and on the tenth day I came down with severe diarrhea (like the prep for a colonoscopy).

This started on Friday night and by the time I got through to my doctor on Monday morning, she sent me straight to the ER. I had a C diff infection. My potassium was 2.2, which is a life-threatening low level.

I spent seven days and nights hooked up to an IV, and I’m not out of the woods yet. There is a 25 percent chance C diff might recur, which means I will need to take vancomycin for an additional month. What upsets me most is that the periodontist did not warn me about this hazard.

A. Antibiotics like amoxicillin, clindamycin and cefuroxime are valuable in preventing or treating serious infections. Unfortunately, they may also increase the risk for a Clostridium difficile (C diff) infection of the digestive tract.

The diarrhea that can result may indeed be life threatening. Dehydration can lead to low levels of potassium and magnesium, which can cause dangerous heart rhythm abnormalities. Anyone who is prescribed such antibiotics should be warned about the serious diarrhea that might result.

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  1. A.L.S. PhD

    Hot new (very old) treatment for C. diff: FECAL TRANSFER.
    C Diff is a killer of old folks and patients over-medicated for pneumonia. My mother died of it. I was likely harboring C. diff dormant until I too was subjected to a ruinous course of antibiotics for pneumonia a year later. I was weak, complexly over-medicated, and at imminent risk of dying from unstoppable diarrhea.
    My sister, specialist in rural poverty medicine, was abroad at the time and recommended immediate fecal transfer (which she would have performed for me herself). My physicians grandly refused or put up such barriers as lengthy testing of donor and hospitalization for me to administer a half-hour enema. Instead I and my partner (as intimate donor likely sharing same intestinal flora and fauna) performed the procedure at home. Yukky but not repugnant. Result: overnight cure.
    Search term “fecal transfer” will turn up preparation instructions. Ordinary home irrigation bag with rectal syringe and improvised dam (and placing oneself in an awkward embarrassing posture raising and opening rectum) are all that’s needed.
    My sister now advises all her elderly patients or any persons at risk for emergency hospitalization, esp for pneumonia, to “bank” their own feces in their home freezer every 3 mo during good health. This removes the difficulty of finding donors for persons living alone or of risking transfer of HIV or HepC from a secretive sexual partner.
    The procedure is suddenly getting a lot of popular press for eg. Harvard Newsletter, Dr. Oz, etc although medical community continues to present the procedure in lofty sonorous tones with admonitions for hospitalization. Not an option for poor people without access, says my sister, who teaches it to medical practitioners in the bush.

  2. CDiff Veteran

    IF you really want to get rid of CDiff, get a fecal transplant.
    If you want to try something else that works first, take mega-doses of many different kinds of probiotics (make sure to include Saccharomyces Boulardii) as you come off of the antibiotics. It cured my wife when vancomycin on its own would not.

  3. eas

    I had a severe case of C-Diff and was on vacomycin. I went on the internet and found out that you should take the probiotic Florastor with it. I think that is what helped to overcome my C-diff.

  4. RLH

    Thank you so much for the valuable information and comment. Knowledge is power!

  5. Wendy

    I nearly died from C.Diff. three years ago, brought on by tetracycline for a simple rash on my face. Vancomycin initially cleared it up but the C.Diff. recurred a few weeks later. I refused to go back on Vancomycin and instead went to the health food store and bought a package of several powerful mega-doses of probiotics, which got me back on my feet.
    Now whenever I have to take antibiotics, I also take probiotics. I buy the active capsules, from the refrigerated section of the health food store. Per my doctor’s advice, I wait two hours after taking the antibiotic before taking the probiotic. I have not had a recurrence of C.Diff. since.

  6. Karen

    Last time I needed an antibiotic, the doctor suggested I get on the “Activia Program” at the same time. I ate one of the little containers every time I took a pill, and I didn’t get any intestinal reaction to the drugs.
    The time before, I had a near-miss with what I believe to be c-diff, based on the smell.
    Next time I need antibiotics, I may well add a probiotic at the same time. Several months ago, Wired magazine showed a chart that indicated antibiotics may affect the diversity of gut bacteria for up to two years.
    People’s Pharmacy response: It’s a great idea to take probiotics, but yogurt at the very same time as the pill could interfere with antibiotic absorption. Separate by at least two hours.

  7. J.L.Kelley

    How helpful would it be to use a follow up dosage of probiotics to replace good bacteria in the digestive track?
    I read a medical article recently of a woman near death in a similar case. The doctors took a dramatic step by infusing a fecal solution developed from her husband. The turn around was almost immediate the next day.
    How common is this situation?

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