Should I Take Probiotics with Antibiotics?

probiotics with antibiotics

Wondering if it is a good idea to take probiotics with antibiotics? You aren’t alone! As we start to learn more how dangerous antibiotics can be and how beneficial probiotics can be, many of us have started to debate the pros and cons of taking probiotic supplements – even as we’re on antibiotics. But is it good for you to take both? It is time to get our facts straight.

When I first starting learning about gut flora, I was floored! I was totally blown away that these little bacteria could have such a massive impact on our overall health. Of course, once we all started to collectively realise how important gut bacteria is, we started to become very protective of it.

When you realize how profoundly antibiotics can affect your gut, it’s a bit scary. While a lot of people have an immediate kneejerk reaction that tells them to avoid antibiotics, we don’t always have such a luxury. There are times when even the healthiest amongst us will have no choice but to take antibiotics.

The real question is how can you recover from taking antibiotics? What role do probiotics play? What about prebiotics? It can seem like an overwhelmingly complex area, especially given the billions of bacteria that we are talking about, but it is something that the non-scientists amongst us can easily digest!

To get a better idea of the complex relationship between antibiotics, probiotics and your overall health, let’s dive in a bit deeper and look at what antibiotics really are, how they impact your gut flora and how probiotics can help you to restore a healthy balance between the good and bad bacteria.

What Do Antibiotics Do To Your Gut?

First things first, let’s look at what antibiotics really are. As you may already know, antibiotics kill bacteria. Generally speaking, that is a good thing. At the same time, it is also a really bad thing. You see, we need bacteria. Our bodies are filled with bacteria that are absolutely essential to our health.

Our guts are home to hundreds of different species of bacteria that literally affect us from head to toe. Those bacteria help us to digest food, get essential nutrients and maintain a healthy immune system. Without these bacteria, our bodies are unable to work properly. This affects us in countless different ways. The bacteria in your gut impacts everything from your mood to your skin to your risk of future diseases.

While antibiotics changed the world, they aren’t quite as smart as we’d like them to be. By whipping out all of the bacteria, good and bad, in our guts, these indiscriminate killers seriously alter our gut flora. This is why you’ll often hear doctors recommending stocking up on probiotic-rich foods like yogurt after a round of probiotics. It is essential to replenish our healthy gut bacteria after it is impacted in such a way.

Why Do We Take Antibiotics?

Antibiotics have gotten a bad name. Thanks to threats of a future superbug and their inability to distinguish between good and bad bacteria, experts are telling us to avoid antibiotics as much as possible. So, does that mean that antibiotics are a bad thing? Definitely not!

Antibiotics have really and truly changed the world. Since penicillin was discovered back in the 1940s, more than 150 new antibiotics have been found. These antibiotics have come together to change what it means to be alive today.

By stopping infectious diseases that were once fatal, these miracle drugs have serious benefits for everyone in the world. Even the prospect of surgery has changed. Operations that were once incredibly dangerous are now routine. Thanks to antibiotics, we are significantly less likely to have post-surgical complications.

So, while we might talk a lot about the downside of antibiotics, it is important to remember that antibiotics are an absolutely critical tool in keeping us heathy and enabling us to live significantly longer lives.

What Is the Deal With Superbugs?

When we talk about antibiotics, we often talk about superbugs but how many of us really understand what a superbug is? If you’ve seen advertisements for cleaning and sanitising products that claim to kill 99% of bacteria, you might have had a few questions. What about the 1% that remain? What effect does that 1% of remaining bacteria have on our lives?

It turns out that the remaining 1% of bacteria is pretty serious. Bacteria that remains after an anti-bacterial agent, whether it is a household cleaner, hand sanitiser or antibiotics, gets strong. The bacteria that survives an anti-bacterial agent is resistant to that agent. When those bacteria have “children,” that anti-bacterial resistance is passed down to future generations.

Scientists believe that those generations of bacterial will create a superbug, as they have done in the past. Those superbugs have a resistance to antibiotics, which makes our existing drugs useless. Ultimately, this means that in the future we could have serious illnesses that are resistant to antibiotics. With unstoppable diseases, obviously we would be facing some major global health issues.

While it is a scary concept, there is ultimately only so much that we do about superbugs. The one goal that we can all share is to limit our antibiotic use. As always, moderation is key. Antibiotics are essential for certain conditions but are absolutely unnecessary (and ultimately dangerous) for common conditions like colds and flus.

Do I Need Probiotic Supplements?

Let’s say that you do absolutely need to take antibiotics. What’s next? Should you mix antibiotics and probiotics? Is it better to let your body fix itself? The answer is that it depends.

Your need for probiotics supplements depends on you. The condition of your gut flora depends on the specific antibiotics that you were taking and how long you were taking them. The one thing to know is that it is not hopeless. You can get your healthy gut flora back in the vast majority of situations.

If you had to take antibiotics and are now ready to start regaining your health, it is time to strategize. Your new goal is to minimise the potential damage caused by antibiotics and to encourage the new growth and ultimate diversification of the flora in your gut.

Generally speaking, when it comes to health, I would say that probiotic supplements aren’t essential for everyone. In the perfect world, we would be able to get all of our essential vitamins and nutrients from food – and you know there are plenty of delicious and healthy probiotic foods.

But unfortunately, we don’t always live our lives in an ideal world. Diets vary and there are countless reasons why we might not be able to rely on food for all of our probiotic needs.

Two-thirds of people who take antibiotics and then focus on increasing their intake of probiotic-rich foods are able to spring back from antibiotic use. By increasing your intake of fermented and cultured food, you have a very good chance of getting your gut bacteria healthy again. This is especially true for people who only need to take antibiotics for one week or less.

On the other hand, if you have been taking antibiotics for several weeks or needed to repeatedly take antibiotics, you may have a different situation. Taking antibiotics for a long time has a serious impact on your gut flora and it is something that you need to chat with your doctor about.

More often than not, doctors would recommend that you add as many probiotic-rich foods as possible on top of taking a probiotic supplement to give your gut flora as much support as possible.

Those of you who have been fighting against h. pylori bacteria may be particularly at risk for gut bacteria issues. If you have been dealing with stomach ulcers, you will definitely want to chat with your doctor and look into the possibility of taking probiotic supplements.

On top of just looking at the antibiotics you have been taking and the duration of your course, there is one more essential element to look at: you! All of us are different. We all have different bodies and different gut flora. We all react differently to different things.

While some of us may have no issue taking antibiotics, others can have major problems. If you have had problems before when taking antibiotics, it is important to have a chat with your doctor. Many people struggle with diarrhea and yeast infections while taking antibiotics.

Rather than just ignoring it, do something! Conditions like diarrhea and yeast infections mean that something is out of whack with your immune system. Having side effects when you take antibiotics means that you need to add more probiotics into your system.

If you aren’t getting enough probiotics through your diet to keep issues at bay, it is time to add in a probiotic supplement to your daily routine.

Which Type of Probiotic Should I Take?

There are countless different types of probiotics. You could write a whole book on the subject and in fact, many people have. In fact, the world of probiotics is so complex and rich that we are just starting to understand them. There are numerous research projects going on at the moment to help us gain a better understand on the benefits of the different strains of probiotics. Like so many sectors of health research, we are constantly getting better insights.

For all of the research that has been done so far, there are no obvious stand-out winners in the probiotics world. While experts can agree that probiotics are an essential part of a healthy diet and they all have a major impact on your gut health, we don’t have clear cut pros and cons to each type of probiotic like we do with vitamins.

Thanks to the upsurge in the popularity of yogurt commercials, there are two probiotics you might have heard of. Those two famous probiotics are Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. The Bifidobacterium genus has eight strains while Lactobacillus has 18 different bacteria strains. Over the past 30 years, these are the probiotics that have been studied the most.

Rather than focusing on types of probiotic, your goal after taking antibiotics is to increase your consumption of probiotic both through food and possibly through supplements. When it comes to choosing a probiotic supplement, it is important to remember that the quality of probiotics supplements don’t depend on cost.

While there are some pricey and impressive looking packages of probiotics supplements out there, they are not necessarily any better than their more humble counterparts.

What about Prebiotics?

You can’t look at probiotics without considering prebiotics. While their names are similar, they are two very different but closely related things.

Prebiotics work to promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut. In simple terms, prebiotics are the food that the probiotics in your body need to thrive. While probiotics are living things, prebiotics are carbs that your body can’t digest.

Since the probiotics in your gut need prebiotics it is also incredibly important to focus on getting enough prebiotics in your diet. Of course, prebiotics food source are very different from those that offer probiotics. To get a good dose of prebiotics it is best to focus on getting ample amounts of soluble fiber. Look to foods like oatmeal, asparagus, squash, bananas and legumes.

While you are increasing your soluble fibre intake, watch your intake of insoluble fibre. Again, the names are similar but the impact is very different! While soluble fibre will give you prebiotics that can help your gut, insoluble fibre can cause irritation to an already-sensitive gut. Insoluble fibre comes from the skin and seeds of fruit as well as whole grain bread and brown varieties of rice.

So, if you have been taking antibiotics, it is really important to pay special attention to your diet. While it may take some time and work and you might even need to consider supplements, it is definitely not hopeless.

Too many people avoid taking necessary antibiotics because they don’t want to affect their gut flora but you can get the best of both world. If you need to – and, again, only if you absolutely need to – take antibiotics, you should definitely heed your doctor’s orders. Be smart and take your prescription. But as you kill off the bad bacteria in your gut, focus on upping your probiotic intake and you can come through your infection healthier than ever!

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