There is no doubt that antibiotics have an essential role to play in modern medicine in preventing and curing bacterial infections. Thanks to antibiotics, bacterial infections are no longer the most common cause of death in the modern world. However, in recent times, it has become increasingly recognised that antibiotics negatively affect our gut microbiome. Here’s one study that explains how antibiotics can disrupt the delicate gut ecosystem.
The good news is that evidence suggests taking probiotics, like our Live Bacteria capsules, alongside antibiotics may help to reduce adverse effects on the composition of the gut microbiome.
The gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem of trillions of microbes that live together in harmony in our gastrointestinal tract. These microbes have far-reaching effects on human health, enhancing digestion, immunity, skin health and energy. A balance is required between beneficial microbes and more harmful microbes that naturally colonise the gut. This balance can be disturbed by various lifestyle factors including, among others, diet, stress, infection, and antibiotic use.
What happens to our gut microbiome when we take an antibiotic?
Unfortunately, taking antibiotics can be detrimental to our gut health. Whilst effective in killing bad bacteria, antibiotics are essentially non-selective and can also deplete the beneficial bacteria residing in the gut. This is thought to contribute to the development of diarrhoea, constipation and/or vaginal thrush when taking an antibiotic. In certain cases, this disruption to our gut microbiome can result in an overgrowth of unwanted, pathogenic bacteria such as Clostridium difficile. Antibiotics can also increase the risk of developing IBS and IBD (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis). This study looks in more detail at the ‘hidden dangers’ of antibiotic use.
In many cases, the benefits of taking antibiotics for an infection far outweigh the associated negatives. Taking a probiotic alongside an antibiotic can help to minimise digestive upset that occurs as a result of the disruption to our gut microbiome, otherwise known as dysbiosis.
Taking probiotics whilst taking antibiotics may help maintain gut microbiome health during antibiotic therapy. Replenishing the gut with beneficial bacteria helps to rebalance the gut microbiome and reduce the risk of developing common side effects of antibiotics. To anyone who is prescribed antibiotics, my advice is to always supplement their natural bacteria with our Live Bacteria capsules.
People taking antibiotics may experience:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Fatigue, feeling low on energy or ‘wiped out’
- Antibiotic-associated diarrhoea
Antibiotic-associated diarrhoea (AAD) is one of the most common side effects of antibiotics; according to this abstract, AAD affects 5-39% of people treated with antibiotics.
In another meta-analysis, 34 separate studies encompassing a total of 4,138 patients undergoing antibiotic treatment were reviewed. The results showed that patients who supplemented with probiotics during antibiotic treatment had a significantly reduced risk of developing antibiotic-associated diarrhoea or C. difficile infection.
Read how taking our Live Bacteria capsules helped Elaine to manage the side-effects of the antibiotics she was prescribed:
Important tips for supporting general health whilst on antibiotics
- Eat fermented or prebiotic foods – these can help rebalance the gut microbiome and optimise gut health after a course of antibiotics.
- Avoid refined sugary foods – these feed the harmful bacteria and yeasts which often overgrow due to antibiotic use.
- Avoid alcohol – even if not contraindicated with your course of antibiotics, alcohol can also disrupt the gut microbiome and negatively impact immune function, which may hinder your body’s efforts to fight infection.
- Ensure you complete your course of antibiotics – unpleasant side effects can make it difficult to continue taking antibiotics but failing to complete the course can increase the risk of antibiotic resistance.
- Eat a healthy diet – include a selection of immune-boosting foods containing vitamin C and other antioxidants, including citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables.
Probiotics for life!
Even if you have taken a probiotic alongside your antibiotic medication, I always recommend that you continue to take a daily probiotic after antibiotics for at least a month or so to replenish the gut microflora, ideally for life. Scientists are not really sure exactly how long it takes to rebuild the gut flora after antibiotics; it depends on several different factors such as the individual gut microbiome, the length of the course, the strength of medication, diet and lifestyle.
My recommended protocol to keep levels of friendly bacteria in the gut topped up, is one Live Bacteria capsule before breakfast with a small glass of cold water (no hot drinks).
You can also find probiotics in live yogurts, some cheeses, and fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut, so try to incorporate some of these into your diet.
Probiotics vs antibiotics? You’re asking the wrong question!
I am sometimes asked whether someone should be taking a probiotic or an antibiotic. The answer, in short, is that it isn’t a question of either/or but instead, whether a probiotic should be taken in addition to, or alongside, an antibiotic. The answer to this question is, in most cases, yes!