Antibiotic use as a risk factor for IBS

Antibiotic use as a risk factor for IBS

How a disrupted gut can trigger symptoms

I recently spent two weeks at the wonderful Viva-Mayr Clinic of Modern Medicine in Austria carrying out their world-renowned wellness ‘cure’ and whilst there, I attended a few evening lectures where the medical doctors share their knowledge and wisdom on how to maintain a healthy gut.

During one lecture, one of the attendees asked a question about antibiotics, specifically if they are appropriate for someone with diverticulitis. The doctor quite rightly said that if there is an active infection in the bowel, including diverticulitis, antibiotics are needed to help prevent sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition – bacteria enter the bloodstream and can cause organ damage, organ failure, and death. The incidence of sepsis has been steadily rising in recent years. Every 3 seconds, someone in the world dies of sepsis. In the UK alone, 245,000 people are affected by sepsis with at least 48,000 people losing their lives in sepsis-related illnesses every year. This is more than breast, bowel and prostate cancer combined. Globally, sepsis claims 11 million lives a year. Yet, for many patients, with early diagnosis it is easily treatable.

Offsetting the fallout of an antibiotic regime

Could this increase in sepsis be linked to a weakened immune system due to the over-prescribing and over-consumption of antibiotics? Who knows? I await the studies. The doctor at Viva-Mayr emphasised the importance of taking probiotics after a course of antibiotics to help repopulate the gut with the friendly strains of bacteria that are so important for keeping our gut balanced and our bodies and minds fit and well. Antibiotics are like bleach as they pass through the digestive system, wiping out not only the opportunistic pathogenic strains of bacteria, but also causing damage to the commensal healthy bacteria. This leaves the stronger, more pathogenic strains to grow and become the dominant species. It’s crucial to take probiotics for a minimum of three months after antibiotics to restore the balance of the gut microbiome.

I’m passionate about making people aware of the dangers of over-consumption of antibiotics. At Just For Tummies, I am contacted daily by people seeking advice and recommendations for their digestive, gut, vaginal and bladder issues, and more often than not, several of these people will have, in recent years have had course after course of antibiotics. I hear from people who have developed IBS, constipation, diarrhoea and acid reflux after antibiotics. They haven’t joined up the dots that connect their conditions to the antibiotics, but when we ask certain questions, it soon becomes obvious that it is their antibiotic history that lies at the root of their problem. The good news is that the answer to the problem comes in a simple form – taking a course of our Live Bacteria or For Women probiotic capsules.

Elaine was struggling with explosive bowel movements when she got in touch for some advice. When I heard that she had needed antibiotics for her foot ulcers, I knew that her gut would benefit from taking probiotics, and indeed it did:

Live Bacteria Testimonial

I was recently contacted by the mother of a 13-year-old girl, who was getting recurring UTIs and her GP had refused to give her any more antibiotics. The GP would be concerned about antibiotic-resistance in one so young with her whole life in front of her. I referred this girl to a colleague of mine, who specialises in vaginal microbiome testing as it may be a pathogenic strain of bacteria in her vagina that is causing the recurring UTIs. Vaginal microbiome testing is a simple swab test that’s sent to a lab to check for sexually transmitted diseases, the human papilloma virus (HPV) and opportunistic bacteria, fungi and yeasts that can also take advantage of changes in the vaginal environment such as a decrease in acidity.

Antibiotics and IBS – what the studies say

While antibiotics have a place in conventional medicine and can prove to be life-saving in so many situations, we do need to focus on taking them with caution, not becoming dependent on them. My advice would be to question things if you have had multiple courses and seen no change; likewise, if you have developed other symptoms, such as IBS.

Studies have found that antibiotics are a risk factor for developing IBS. In the 4 months after antibiotics, the risk of developing IBS is 3 times higher than it would have been without antibiotics. Read more about the findings here.

This paper summarises the main findings on this issue and contributes to a deeper understanding of the link between antibiotic use and the development of IBS.

Antibiotics can lead to changes in the gut microbiome and these changes can include a reduction in the good bacteria and an increase in the bacteria that have a negative impact on the gut. The combination of these factors may then reduce the stability of the gut microbiome and increase the risk of IBS.

There are plenty of research studies published that provide evidence that dysbiosis of the gut can lead to intestinal disorders, such as IBS and coeliac disease. According to the World Class Journal of Gastroenterology, “In the last decade, the gut microbiota has provided support to the concept that a disturbed intestinal ecology could promote development and maintenance of symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)” and “probiotics appear (to be) an attractive option in terms of both efficacy and safety, while prebiotics, synbiotics and antibiotics still need formation.” Read more here.

There are natural ways to fight bacterial infections – supporting your immune system with a healthy diet, sleep, fresh air, exercise, carrying out periodic cleanses of your digestive system with activated charcoal.

Remember that around 70% of your immune system is in your gut!

Happy gut, happy life.

If you would like to know more about a tailored natural supplement protocol for your digestive and gut symptoms, please get in touch.