Diarrhea supplements

  • Saccharomyces boulardii is a non-pathogenic yeast strain that has been used for treatment and prevention of diarrhea. Saccharomyces boulardii is classified as a "probiotic," or a microorganism that when ingested may have a positive influence on the host's health. Probiotics may exert their effects on the gastrointestinal system directly, or may modulate the immune system in a larger scope. Human studies indicate Saccharomyces boulardii may prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea, Clostridium difficile diarrhea in combination with antibiotic therapy, diarrhea associated with tube feeds, and acute childhood diarrhea. Promising initial studies have shown that Saccharomyces boulardii may be beneficial in treating diarrhea associated with HIV. The German Commission E has approved the use of Saccharomyces boulardii for symptomatic treatment of acute diarrhea, prophylactic and symptomatic treatment of diarrhea during travel, treatment of diarrhea occurring while tube feeding, use as an adjuvant for chronic acne, for a dietary supplementation, and for a source of B vitamins and protein.
  • Zinc has been used since ancient Egyptian times to enhance wound healing, although the usefulness of this approach is only partially confirmed by the clinical data of today. Zinc is necessary for the functioning of more than 300 different enzymes and plays a vital role in an enormous number of biological processes. Zinc is a cofactor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) and is in a number of enzymatic reactions involved in carbohydrate and protein metabolism. Its immune-enhancing activities include regulation of T lymphocytes, CD4, natural killer cells, and interleukin II. In addition, zinc has been claimed to possess antiviral activity. It has been shown to play a role in wound healing, especially following burns or surgical incisions. Zinc is necessary for the maturation of sperm and normal fetal development. It is involved in sensory perception (taste, smell, and vision) and controls the release of stored vitamin A from the liver. Within the endocrine system, zinc has been shown to regulate insulin activity and promote the conversion thyroid hormones thyroxine to triiodothyronine. Based on available scientific evidence, zinc may be effective in the treatment of (childhood) malnutrition, acne vulgaris, peptic ulcers, leg ulcers, infertility, Wilson's disease, herpes, and taste or smell disorders. Zinc has also gained popularity for its use in the prevention of the common cold. The role for zinc is controversial in some cases, as the results of published studies provide either contradictory information and/or the methodological quality of the studies does not allow for a confident conclusion regarding the role of zinc in those diseases.
  • Psyllium, also referred to as ispaghula (or isphagula), is derived from the husks of the seeds of Plantago ovata . Psyllium contains a high level of soluble dietary fiber, and is the chief ingredient in many commonly used bulk laxatives, including products such as Metamucil® and Serutan®. Psyllium has been studied as a "non-systemic" cholesterol-lowering agent, with generally modest effects seen on total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein levels. Several psyllium-containing cereals such as Heartwise® and Bran Buds® have appeared in the U.S. marketplace during the last 15 years and have been touted for their potential lipid-lowering and "heart health promoting" effects. Allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, have been reported, particularly in healthcare workers with previous experience preparing psyllium-containing bulk laxatives. Obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract by such laxatives has also been reported, particularly in patients with prior bowel surgeries or anatomic abnormalities, or when mixed with inadequate amounts of water.
  • Soy is a subtropical plant native to southeastern Asia. This member of the pea family (Fabaceae) grows from 1-5 feet tall and forms clusters of 3-5 pods that each contain 2-4 beans. Soy has been a dietary staple in Asian countries for at least 5,000 years. During the Chou dynasty in China (1134-246 B.C.), fermentation techniques were discovered that allowed soy to be prepared in more easily digestible forms such as tempeh, miso, and tamari soy sauce. Tofu was invented in 2nd Century China. Soy was introduced to Europe in the 1700s and to the United States in the 1800s. Large-scale soybean cultivation began in the United States during World War II. Currently, Midwestern U.S. farmers produce about half of the world's supply of soybeans. Soy and components of soy called "isoflavones" have been studied for many health conditions. Isoflavones (such as genistein) are believed to have estrogen-like effects in the body, and as a result, they are sometimes called "phytoestrogens." In laboratory studies, it is not clear if isoflavones stimulate or block the effects of estrogen or both (acting as "mixed receptor agonists/antagonists").
  • Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is derived from two sources: preformed retinoids and provitamin carotenoids. Retinoids, such as retinal and retinoic acid, are found in animal sources like liver, kidney, eggs, and dairy produce. Carotenoids like beta-carotene (which has the highest vitamin A activity) are found in plants such as dark or yellow vegetables and carrots. Natural retinoids are present in all living organisms, either as preformed vitamin A or as carotenoids, and are required for a vast number of biological processes like vision and cellular growth. A major biologic function of vitamin A (as the metabolite retinal) is in the visual cycle. Research also suggests that vitamin A may reduce the mortality rate from measles, prevent some types of cancer, aid in growth and development, and improve immune function. Recommended daily allowance (RDA) levels for vitamin A oral intake have been established by the U.S. Institute for Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences to prevent deficiencies in vitamin A. At recommended doses, vitamin A is generally considered non-toxic. Excess dosing may lead to acute or chronic toxicity. Vitamin A deficiency is rare in industrialized nations but remains a concern in developing countries, particularly in areas where malnutrition is common. Prolonged deficiency can lead to xerophthalmia (dry eye) and ultimately to night blindness or total blindness, as well as to skin disorders, infections (such as measles), diarrhea, and respiratory disorders.
  • Bilberry, a close relative of blueberry, has a long history of medicinal use. The dried fruit has been popular for the symptomatic treatment of diarrhea, for topical relief of minor mucus membrane inflammation, and for a variety of eye disorders, including poor night vision, eyestrain, and myopia. Bilberry fruit and its extracts contain a number of biologically active components, including a class of compounds called anthocyanosides. These have been the focus of recent research in Europe. Bilberry extract has been evaluated for efficacy as an antioxidant, mucostimulant, hypoglycemic, anti-inflammatory, "vasoprotectant," and lipid-lowering agent. Although pre-clinical studies have been promising, human data are limited and largely of poor quality. At this time, there is not sufficient evidence in support of (or against) the use of bilberry for most indications. Notably, the evidence suggests a lack of benefit of bilberry for the improvement of night vision. Bilberry is commonly used to make jams, pies, cobblers, syrups, and alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverages. Fruit extracts are used as a coloring agent in wines.
  • Bovine colostrum is the pre-milk fluid produced by cow mammary glands during the first two to four days after giving birth. Bovine colostrum delivers growth, nutrient, and immune factors to the offspring. Traditional uses of bovine colostrum include for eye conditions, oral health, and respiratory tract infections. The investigation of clinical effects of bovine colostrum in humans began in the late 1980s and continues today. Bovine colostrum may be useful for exercise performance enhancement and gastrointestinal injury due to bowel disease and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Although early evidence looks promising, additional study is still needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of bovine colostrum. Hyperimmune bovine colostrum is also commercially available, and some evidence exists for its use, as well as the use of isolated immunoglobulins (antibodies). Most evidence is in support of its use for diarrhea associated with certain types of bacterial and viral infections or immune system deficiencies.
  • Arrowroot refers to any plant of the genus Maranta, but the term is most commonly used to describe the easily digestible starch obtained from the rhizomes of Maranta arundinacea. Other plants that produce similar starches include East Indian arrowroot ( Curcuma angustifolia ), Queensland arrowroot (Cannaceae family), Brazilian arrowroot (Euphorbiaceae family), and Florida arrowroot ( Zamia pumila or Zamia integrifolia ). This monograph addresses only true arrowroot, Maranta arundinacea . The popular name arrowroot may be a corruption of the Aru-root of the Aruac Indians of South America or derived from its legendary use as an antidote for poison-tipped arrow toxins. The name may also come from the native Caribbean Arawak people's aru-aru (meal of meals), for whom the plant was a dietary staple. Arrowroot is used in the form of a starchy powder dried from the milky liquid extracted from the grated plant rhizome. Arrowroot has been studied as a remedy for diarrhea, possibly due to its high starch content. Arrowroot has also been taken by mouth as a dietary aid in gastrointestinal disorders, and applied on the skin to soothe painful, irritated, or inflamed mucous membranes.
  • The slippery elm is native to eastern Canada and the eastern and central United States where it is found mostly in the Appalachian Mountains. Its name refers to the slippery consistency the inner bark assumes when it is chewed or mixed with water. Slippery elm inner bark has been used historically as a demulcent, emollient, nutritive, astringent, anti-tussive, and vulnerary. It is included as one of four primary ingredients in the herbal cancer remedy, Essiac®, and in a number of Essiac-like products such as Flor-Essence®. There is a lack of scientific studies evaluating the common uses of this herb, but due to its high mucilage content, slippery elm bark may be a safe herbal remedy to treat irritations of the skin and mucus membranes. Although allergic reactions after contact have been reported, there is no known toxicity with typical dosing when products made only from the inner bark are used. Inner bark of slippery elm should not be confused with the whole bark, which may be associated with significant risk of adverse effects. Bark of Californian slippery elm ( Fremontia Californica ) is often used similarly medicinally, but it is not botanically related.
  • Lactobacilli are bacteria that normally live in the human small intestine and vagina. Lactobacillus acidophilus is generally considered to be beneficial because it produces vitamin K, lactase, and anti-microbial substances such as acidolin, acidolphilin, lactocidin, and bacteriocin. Multiple human trials report benefits of Lactobacillus acidophilus for bacterial vaginosis. Other medicinal uses of Lactobacillus acidophilus are not sufficiently studied to form clear conclusions. The term "probiotic" is used to describe organisms that are used medicinally, including bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and yeast such as Saccharomyces boulardii . Although generally believed to be safe with few side effects, Lactobacillus acidophilus taken by mouth should be avoided in people with intestinal damage, a weakened immune system, or with overgrowth of intestinal bacteria.
  • Devil's claw ( Harpagophytum procumbens ) originates from the Kalahari and Savannah desert regions of South and Southeast Africa. In these parts of the world, devil's claw has historically been used to treat a wide range of conditions including fever, malaria, and indigestion. The medicinal ingredient of the devil's claw plant is extracted from the dried out roots. Currently, the major uses of devil's claw are as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever for joint diseases, back pain, and headache. There is currently widespread use of standardized devil's claw for mild joint pain in Europe. Potential side effects include gastrointestinal upset, low blood pressure, or abnormal heart rhythms (increased heart rate or increased heart squeezing effects). Traditionally, it has been recommended to avoid using devil's claw in patients with stomach ulcers or in people using blood thinners (anticoagulants such as warfarin/Coumadin®).
  • Chamomile has been used medicinally for thousands of years and is widely used in Europe. It is a popular treatment for numerous ailments, including sleep disorders, anxiety, digestion/intestinal conditions, skin infections/inflammation (including eczema), wound healing, infantile colic, teething pains, and diaper rash. In the United States, chamomile is best known as an ingredient in herbal tea preparations advertised for mild sedating effects. German chamomile ( Matricaria recutita ) and Roman chamomile ( Chamaemelum nobile ) are the two major types of chamomile used for health conditions. They are believed to have similar effects on the body, although German chamomile may be slightly stronger. Most research has used German chamomile, which is more commonly used everywhere except for England, where Roman chamomile is more common. Although chamomile is widely used, there is not enough reliable research in humans to support its use for any condition. Despite its reputation as a gentle medicinal plant, there are many reports of allergic reactions in people after eating or coming into contact with chamomile preparations, including life-threatening anaphylaxis.
  • Probiotics are beneficial bacteria (sometimes referred to as "friendly germs") that help to maintain the health of the intestinal tract and aid in digestion. They also help keep potentially harmful organisms in the gut (harmful bacteria and yeasts) under control. Most probiotics come from food sources, especially cultured milk products. Probiotics can be consumed as capsules, tablets, beverages, powders, yogurts and other foods. Pro biotics should not be confused with pre biotics. Prebiotics are complex sugars (such as lactulose, lactitol, a variety of fructo-oligosaccharides and inulin) that are used as fuel by the healthful bacteria to stimulate their growth and activity while suppressing the growth and activity of harmful organisms. Other foods that support probiotic activity include Japanese miso, tempeh, kefir, raw milk, kombucha, bananas, garlic and onions. When prebiotics and probiotics are combined in one product, it is called a syn biotic. Probiotics work by colonizing the small intestine and crowding out disease-causing organisms, thereby restoring proper balance to the intestinal flora. They compete with harmful organisms for nutrients and may also produce substances that inhibit growth of harmful organisms in the gut. Probiotic bacteria have been found to stimulate the body's immune system. They may also aid in several gastrointestinal illnesses such as inflammatory bowel diseases, antibiotic-related diarrhea, Clostridium difficile toxin-induced colitis, infectious diarrhea, hepatic encephalopathy, irritable bowel syndrome and allergy. Probiotics have been found to enhance the digestion and absorption of proteins, fats, calcium and phosphorus. They may help overcome lactose intolerance. Finally they may help restore healthful bacteria after a course of antibiotic therapy has altered the normal gastrointestinal flora.
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