Each year, a half million people in the United States contract a C. diff infection. Located in the air, soil and water, C. diff, or clostridium difficile, is usually a harmless bacteria found in the guts of many healthy people. However, if you are elderly or ill, it's possible for C. diff to multiply rapidly and outnumber the good bacteria in your system. When this occurs, you may experience only mild diarrhea and cramping or you could develop an illness that leads to hospitalization.
What Is C. diff?
Antibiotics prescribed to treat an infection can sometimes trigger a serious infection caused by clostridium difficile. The antibiotics kill the good bacteria in your gut and the C. diff multiplies unchecked. The resulting diarrhea and other symptoms can lead to severe dehydration, which can make you feel even worse. Severe dehydration can damage your kidneys and negatively affect blood pressure, so it's important to see treatment if you can't stay adequately hydrated at home.
- C. diff bacteria may trigger inflammation of the colon, which can be fatal if not treated correctly. It may also lead to a toxic megacolon or perforated bowel in rare cases.
- C. diff symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Increased heart rate
- Nausea 
Mild cases may only cause diarrhea three times a day for two or more days. But if you have a severe case of C. diff, you may need the bathroom 10 to 15 times a day. You may also pass blood or pus in your stool or have a swollen abdomen. You may have a fever, which is an additional sign of infection. Any signs of a severe infection merit immediate medical attention.
Should You Worry About C. Diff?
If you're elderly or immunocompromised, you have a greater risk of developing an overgrowth of C. diff. In particular, colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease may make you susceptible to problems with this tenacious bacteria. Taking antibiotics or being hospitalized also increase your risk for this bacterial infection. Even if you have a healthy immune system, you can contract C. diff by not washing your hands.
C. diff Treatment Options
C. diff has become increasingly difficult to treat. To determine the proper diagnosis, be prepared to give a stool sample before receiving treatment. While your doctor will decide on the best course of treatment, many medical professionals start by prescribing an antibiotic that will target the C. diff bacteria. In severe cases, you may need surgery to remove damaged areas of your colon.
If you have recurrent C. diff infections, your doctor may consider a fecal microbiota transplant from a screened donor. You may also need to take another course of antibiotics. Your doctor may also recommend that you take probiotics to encourage the growth of healthy bacteria that will keep the C. diff in check. Research indicates that a course of antibiotics, combined with the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii, could prevent additional infections. Other research also suggests that taking lactobacillus probiotic, acidophilus probiotic and other probiotics found in Nexabiotic Multi Probiotic by DrFormulas could prevent additional recurrences.
To decrease your chances of contracting C. diff, you should be proactive about washing your hands after using the bathroom and before eating. When visiting a medical facility, ask your medical providers to wash their hands and make sure all equipment is properly sterilized. You can also take probiotics to encourage good bacteria to flourish in your gut. Finally, if you're prescribed antibiotics, you can ask your doctor if an alternative treatment could be considered.