This year as many as half a million Americans will be diagnosed with a Clostridium Difficile infection.
And 1 in 40 – or more – could die from it.
Right now this superbug kills anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000 people annually in the United States, rivaling MRSA as an emerging infectious disease threat. That’s nearly as many people as die in automobile accidents!
Clostridium difficile infections have been on the rise in hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term care centers for years.
But even if you never enter a healthcare facility, your chance of getting it just went up…
What is Clostridium Difficile?
Clostridium difficile, in scientific terms, is an anaerobic, spore-forming Gram-positive bacteria found in feces.
In practical terms, when you get it, you can expect painful bloating, severe diarrhea and inflammation of the colon. Loss of appetite, nausea and weight loss are common side effects. Even life-threatening complications like toxic megacolon may result from a Clostridium difficile infection.
While the bacteria itself is sensitive to oxygen, the spores themselves can last for months on dry surfaces – and most general hospital cleaners won’t touch them.
Now a more potent strain of Clostridium difficile has emerged. Known as NAP1, it’s over 16 times as toxic as earlier strains making it far more deadly. And, more importantly, it seems to have become immune to the standard treatment for Clostridium difficile.
How to Protect Yourself from Clostridium Difficile
Clostridium difficile is already present in about 5% of the population. But it needs a specific environment to really grow and put you in danger.
As a gut bacteria, it needs room to grow. Healthy individuals typically have an ample supply of beneficial intestinal flora. But destroy that and you set up a breeding ground for any Clostridium difficile spores you may come in contact with.
For years, most individuals who contracted a Clostridium difficile infection were those who had been taking a broad-spectrum antibiotic that killed off most of their gut bacteria. But for several years, cases of infection in those who had NOT been on antibiotics have been on the increase.
While you can pick up spores on food, most cases of Clostridium difficile are spread person-to-person. Standard advice like washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water before eating and after using the restroom is common sense. But it’s not enough.
That’s because even with all your precautions, you can still come into contact with the spores and never know it (until you’re sick). But you CAN help protect yourself from serious infection by building up your beneficial intestinal flora – leaving Clostridium difficile little room to grow and take over your gut.
Here are practical ways you can protect and build your protective flora:
- Take a good probiotic supplement daily.
- Maintain a good pH balance.
- Avoid meat from animals treated with antibiotics.
- Do not drink or cook with chlorinated water (most public water supplies are chlorinated – so consider using a home water purifier).
- Include fermented foods as part of your regular diet (yogurt with live cultures, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh and kombucha are good choices).
Learn How to Build Your Immune System —FREE
While maintaining healthy levels of beneficial gut bacteria is important, that’s only one part of keeping your body free of foreign invaders that can run down your immune system, making you more susceptible to dangerous pathogens like Clostridium difficile, MRSA and other superbugs.
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Schroeder M. Clostridium difficile-Associated Diarrhea. American Family Physician. 2005 Mar 1;71(5):921-928.
Study Reveals What Makes C-Diff Superbug Deadly. Loyola Medicine News Release. 2009 Mar 3.
Baron, J. Clostridium-Difficile-Klebsiella-Pneumoniae-SuperBugs-newsletter. The Baseline of Health Foundation. 2012 Sept 03.
U.S.Department of Health and Human Services. Clostridium Difficile Infection. National Library of Medicine: National Institute of Health. 2012 Aug 6.
Harvard Health Publications. Clostridium difficile: An intestinal infection on the rise. Harvard Men’s Health Watch. 2010 June.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Frequently Asked Questions About Clostridium Difficile for Healthcare Providers. 2012 Mar 6.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FAQs: About Clostridium Difficile (PDF).
Written By: Updated: October 18,2012