Antibiotics represent some of the greatest medical advancements of our age. Designed to stop bacteria from reproducing, antibiotics destroy infections that used to be fatal. Their efficiency, however, comes at a cost.
While antibiotics kill bad bacteria, they also kill the good bacteria in your gut. This can have a variety of health consequences, from digestive issues (approximately 1/3 of antibiotic users experience diarrhea) to allergic reactions. Luckily, it's possible to proactively mitigate some of the side effects by taking probiotics along with your antibiotics.
Can I Take Probiotics While on Antibiotics?
If you've ever asked "Can I take probiotics while on antibiotics?" you're not alone. An even better question is "Why aren't more people taking probiotics while on antibiotics?"
Even "mild" antibiotics used to treat moderate infections can do some serious damage to your gut flora. If you have to take back-to-back courses of antibiotics, or antibiotics meant to treat a severe or potentially deadly infection, the effects can be much worse.
When you take an antibiotic, it works within your body to target and destroy a certain bacteria. Unfortunately, antibiotics aren't good at distinguishing "bad" bacteria from "good" bacteria, and they kill it all as they work to stop infection. This change can cause immediate side effects and long-term health consequences.
As such, it's wise to take a probiotic supplement as you take your course of antibiotics. Probiotics are certain strains of bacteria and yeast that have demonstrable benefits for human health.
Depending on the type and dose of antibiotic you're taking, pairing it with probiotic pills can either lessen or even prevent the effects of gut flora disruption.
What's more, continuing to take probiotics after your course of antibiotics is done is a great way to repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria and help your body get back on track.
Which Probiotics to Take During Antibiotic Treatment
When you choose a probiotic, you've got to choose carefully, taking factors like the type of antibiotic you're on, your overall health and your other supplements into account. Here are some tips:
1. Look to Minimize Symptoms
Two of the antibiotic-related symptoms people want to avoid are antibiotic-associated diarrhea and Clostridium difficile (c. Diff) infection, which can result when antibiotics interfere too heavily with your gut's microbiome.
The best probiotics for antibiotics include bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces boulardii, and Lactobacillus acidophilus. Nexabiotic probiotic is a good option as it contains all three of these probiotics. Be sure to ask your health practitioner which strains are right for you.
2. Take a Large Enough Dose
Remember: Antibiotics are strong, so it's important to take a large enough dose of probiotics to cover your bases. While some types of probiotics include between 1 billion to 1.5 billion Colony Forming Units (CFUs) per dose, others contain between 5 billion to 10 billion or more.
Modern research recommends that children take at least 5 billion CFUs. Adults can and should take a larger dose than that. One study found that a minimum of 10 billion CFUs during the first 48 hours of diarrhea was needed to reduce the duration of diarrhea by more than half a day.
Consumers should abide by the usage guidelines on the package of the probiotics purchased.
3. Take Them Correctly
Remember, probiotics are living organisms, and they must be taken in a way that maintains their integrity and nutritional value. If you purchase a powdered probiotic mix, don't swirl it into a boiling liquid that will kill it on contact.
Keep probiotics that need refrigeration refrigerated and always use the product before its expiration date. There's also the issue of when to take your probiotics.
Minimizing Symptoms of Antibiotics with Probiotics
Taking antibiotics can lead to some unpleasant side effects.
Because taking antibiotics can upset the delicate balance of your gut and intestinal microflora, you may experience side effects such as bloating, gas, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. All types of antibiotics can result in antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD), but it is more common after taking antibiotics with broad-spectrum coverage. AAD is a significant problem and can cause people to discontinue their course of antibiotics. This makes it harder to treat the infection and means further treatment is required. Probiotics have been shown to counter the effects of AAD and help to rebalance the levels of beneficial bacteria in the GI tract.
Women suffer an added risk when taking a course of antibiotics; they can sometimes cause a vaginal yeast infection. Unfortunately, as well as killing off harmful bacteria, antibiotics also kill off some of the beneficial bacteria that reside naturally in the vagina. This can lead to an overgrowth of yeast known as Candida albicans. Probiotic supplements containing lactobacillus may have some potential in reducing the growth of Candida albicans.
How long after taking Antibiotics should I take Probiotics?
One of the most common questions people ask is "How long after taking antibiotics can I take Probiotics?" The answer is that you should take your probiotic at least two hours before your antibiotic dose, and continue your probiotic for four to six weeks after your course of antibiotics is done.
Research shows that the bacteria strains most likely to help reduce and prevent diarrhea are:
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus: One of the most widely used probiotic strains, rhamnosus is well documented for its ability to relieve GI infections and diarrhea. Its other benefits include supporting a healthy urinary tract and immune support.
- Lactobacillus acidophilus: acidophilus is a strain of lactic acid bacteria which lives in the human stomach and intestines. It can promote recovery from diarrhea, particularly in young children at a dose greater than 10 billion CFUs per day.
- Saccharomyces boulardii: This probiotic yeast has been shown to be effective for the treatment of diarrhea as well as a number of other gastrointestinal disorders which cause inflammation. It also helps restore healthy gut flora.
Better Gut Health Starts Here
While antibiotics have been instrumental in protecting human health in recent decades, they're not without side effects. Fortunately, people who want to be proactive about avoiding antibiotic-related complications can help their bodies cope with antibiotic medications by taking high-quality probiotics simultaneously.