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Diarrhea that comes and goes suddenly and unpredictably can be a serious problem even if it is not connected to a serious diagnosis. People who have this experience may become reluctant to leave home, even to participate in their usual social activities. One reader found that taking the probiotic acidophilus served as a solution.

Acidophilus for Sudden Unexpected Diarrhea:

Q. Whenever I would go out to eat, I would frequently suffer from sudden diarrhea. This led to jumping out of the car and climbing through ditches to reach a sheltered area or charging into a nearby store with the hope of finding a restroom. Sometimes I’d arrive home and have to hose myself down in the backyard as I was not able to find an appropriate “outlet” in a timely manner.

Then someone in my apartment building mentioned acidophilus and asked if I had tried taking it. I had not, so she gave me a bottle. It has been like a miracle.

I cannot help but wonder how many thousands of people with troublesome diarrhea would benefit from using acidophilus. Please mention this in your column.

Match the Treatment to the Cause When Possible:

A. There are many possible causes of diarrhea. They include intestinal infection or parasites, food poisoning, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, overactive thyroid gland, celiac disease and other problems. Consequently, we doubt that your remedy will work for everyone.

Nonetheless, it could be worth a try. Lactobacillus acidophilus is one of the most common probiotics. These beneficial bacteria are used to replenish the gut microbiota after antibiotics. We don’t know if that might have been a trigger for your condition.

Research on Acidophilus for Diarrhea:

There is some evidence that people recover more quickly from infectious diarrhea if they take probiotics, including acidophilus (Allen et al, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Nov. 10, 2010). In addition, a recent study shows that irritable bowel syndrome, which could produce the diarrhea you describe, responds well to treatment with probiotics if it is associated with small intestine bacterial overgrowth (Leventogiannis et al, Probiotics and Antimicrobial Proteins, online March 5, 2018). The scientists gave the 26 study volunteers capsules containing four species of bacteria: Saccharomyces boulardii, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus plantarum. This study was neither randomized nor placebo-controlled, so we’ll need to see more research on this potential treatment.

Could You Get Acidophilus from Food?

L. acidophilus is part of the mix of bacteria used in food fermentation, particularly of dairy products (Anjum et al, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 2014). Some people might find that eating yogurt or drinking kefir can be helpful against occasional mild digestive upset.

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  1. LI

    Years ago, following surgery, I had some trouble with persistent diarrhea, possibly due to antibiotics. A co-worker recommended acidophilus capsules, which I took for 2 to 3 weeks. They stopped the problem, and it did not resume when I discontinued taking the capsules.

  2. Michele

    Have you ever thought to have a workup for your diarrhea? Sounds like IBS or food allergies.

  3. Deidre

    Actually, I have been diagnosed with Mast Cell Activation Disorder which included symptoms that are very much like IBS. Going on the histamine diet did a lot to clear up my GI issues, as well as skin rashes, shortness of breath and headaches. It is far easier to treat by eating whole, non-processed foods than by taking pills. Fermentation actually causes more histamine release and should be avoided, despite is current popularity.

  4. Patty

    I have successfully used probiotics to cure diarrhea, and it can work fairly quickly, but it can depend on the brand you use. I took a Jarro Formulas products for decades and really could not tell if it was making any difference. Their product required constant refrigeration, so it was not convenient to carry with me.

    I switched to a product named “PB8” a few years ago and can tell a huge difference when I take extra thoughout the day to help with a digestive upset. It helps put things right in my system quickly. I normally take three caps twice per day, but if my tummy is out of whack, I may take as many as two every 2 – 4 hours. As long as I am not eating whatever upset my system again, the PB8 puts things right within a few hours. Of course, I still resort to Immodium if there is a severe situation and I must leave the house right away, but probipotics are my preference. Immodium only temporarily delays an upset stomach for a few hours, then one will have diarrhea anyway or may result in constipation.

  5. Mark
    Apex, NC

    Diarrhea wasn’t my problem (mine was significant cramping, localized pain, and clear signs my gut-biome was out out of whack), but my gastro-doc diaganosed IBS and suggested mason acidophilus with pectin. Coincidentally I gravitated to a Mediterranean diet (much lower carbs/sugars, more good fats etc) and had *profound* improvement. And not just with the gut, but with mood and clarity of thought. There’s a lot going on in the gut, and I wish I figured that out 30 years ago.

  6. Florence

    Will it work for radiated bowels? I had chemo and radiation for cervical cancer several years ago and have had to take Lopoeramide since to keep the runs in check. Anybody had experience with probiotics after treatment?

  7. Jane

    In December 2016 I was diagnosed with collagenous colitis. I had been taking ibuprofen for many years and the doctor told me to see’s with the ibuprofen. On the recommendation of my doctor I started with yogurt and Keffer every day. I have not been bothered by diarrhea or stomach cramps sense. I will never stop eating yogurt and drinking Keffer

  8. Mary

    I found that eating quinoa for breakfast caused me diarrhea the next morning. That made it harder to diagnose. Too bad, since I do like it and wanted to avoid oatmeal!

    One morning I had hemp seeds for breakfast & no diarrhea the next morning or after that either.
    Delayed symptoms can be much harder to recognize.


    I had constant bouts with diarreah. I eat too much sugar. I started taking Kyo Dophilus twice a day. one pill morning and one at night. No more diarreah and now I am getting the nutrients from the good food I eat.

  10. David

    A day after two long brats with sourkraut & dill pickle had recurring diarrhea and thought “too much fat or something.” Three days of this didn’t make sense, so, aha, may have been four 500 mg amoxicillin before routine dental check up. Could be the two grams of antibiotics upset the colon biome. Am taking Lactobacillus acidophilus in hopes of regaining normality.

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