I've been getting questions about the risks of C. Difficile in light of the news of the recent deaths of patients in hospitals from this super bug. This issue of C. Difficile is especially relevant to persons with celiac/ gluten sensitivity as persons with celiac/gluten sensitivity have abnormally large amounts and abnormal varieties of bacteria growing in their bowel compared to others. There is a higher rate of C. Difficile in persons with CD/gluten sensitivity. And most don't know they have CD.
There are many reasons why this is so: the causes include immunocompromised or weak immune system (10% minimum IgA deficiency, low vitamin A status) which allows abnormal bacteria to grow. And more frequent antibiotic use because of more infections due to being immunocompromised and antibiotics kill the healthy bacteria in the gut that are the directors of our immune system. (C. Difficile is not killed by the most common antibiotics). Healthy bacteria in the gut are sometimes called probiotics and they need to feed on special fibers in our food called prebiotiocs. We need 30 grams a day of fiber to stay well and one reason is that it feeds the good bacteria; they stay healthy and keep out immune system strong.And we need to eat sources of healthy bacteria every day from fermented foods or supplements.
But what to do if you have been told you (or an elderly relative in hospital) have a C. Difficile overgrowth and you know there is a risk of death! Here is a report from an Australian gastroenterologist who has had some success treating C.Difficile with Bacteriotherapy or fecal transplants from the guts of healthy donors directly into the colons of infected patients.
Termed “the ultimate probiotics treatment”, a single infusion of a healthy donor’s fecal material into the infected colon resulted in a cure rate of no less than 97% according to Professor Thomas Borody from the Center for Digestive Diseases in Sydney which so far has conducted over 1500 such transplants.
Robert Silberstein, a 38 year old attorney and father of 3, is one patient quickly cured by this amazing new therapy. Mr. Silberstein had been fighting a clostridium difficile infection involving severe pain and diarrhea for over 6 months with conventional antibiotics to no avail. Faced with either losing his colon or death, Mr. Silberstein was referred to the Center for Digestive Diseases for a fecal transplant.
“I had the procedure done at midday and I woke that night and felt completely normal. I was shocked. I had been so ill for six months and I felt normal. The transplant was amazing. It worked.” said Mr. Silberstein. Mr. Silberstein’s doctor agreed. “It has cured him,” said Dr. Bernie Hudson, a Royal North Shore Infectious Diseases Specialist. Dr. Hudson went on to say that he felt that all New South Wales hospitals should become equipped to perform these transplants in order to save more lives.
Avoiding Clostridium Difficile Infections
Avoiding infection with a dangerous super bug such as clostridium difficile obviously involves keeping the gut healthy with beneficial bacteria dominating over any pathogenic strains.
Making and consuming traditionally prepared fermented foods and drinks is an important way to accomplish this goal. To source “probiotics” cultures for making these healthy foods in your home, please refer to my Resources page.
Hopefully, this wildly successful treatment for established C. difficile overgrowth, already practiced in some centers in Canada will quickly make its way to hospitals and become standard of care given the alarming and rapidly rising cases of clostridium difficile infections.