Supplements containing bacteria commonly found in yogurt can help shorten the duration of diarrhoea in children by nearly a day. Researchers reviewed 11 international studies that examined the effectiveness of a type of bacteria known as Lactobacillus for the treatment of diarrhoea in children, most of whom were younger than age 4 and were hospitalized. The Lactobacillus was generally given as a supplement, either in capsule form or mixed into a rehydration drink.
The researchers found that supplemental Lactobacillus shortened the duration of diarrhoea by two thirds of a day, when compared with an inactive placebo treatment. No side effects were observed. Whether the same benefits would result from consumption of store-bought yogurt containing Lactobacillus remains unclear. But some yogurts on the market may not contain enough of the bacteria to have an effect.
Parents should consult a pediatrician before giving their children an over-the-counter Lactobacillus or other supplements. Over-the-counter dietary supplements are not subject to the same safety and effectiveness standards that medications face. And children with diarrhoea should see a doctor if they have loose stools for more than 5 days, the stools contain blood or mucus, or the children show signs of dehydration such as dry mouth or infrequent urination.