If you’ve ever been on antibiotics, then you’re most likely aware of the havoc they can wreak on your gut. In some cases, depending on how stubborn a bacterial infection is, patients will sometimes require to be put on a second round of antibiotics – which can upset the stomach even more. While problems with the gastrointestinal/digestive system don’t happen with all antibiotics, it’s a common occurrence with many. Along with nausea and vomiting, patients may also experience diarrhea. Oftentimes these symptoms will persist throughout the entire duration of the antibiotic in which you’ve been prescribed, and even after you’ve finished the course.
Because stomach problems are so common when taking antibiotics, pharmacists and family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary recommend taking your antibiotic with food. Taking your antibiotic with food in the stomach can help reduce some of the aforementioned symptoms. If taking your antibiotic with food doesn’t help, however, and your symptoms persist or worsen, then you may need to explore other avenues. Along with recommending that antibiotics be taken with food, doctors and pharmacists also recommend probiotics. When you take antibiotics, not only are you killing off the bad bacteria, but you’re also killing off the good bacteria, too. This is because antibiotics cannot differ between which bacteria is “friend” and which is “foe.” As soon as you start taking an antibiotic, you should also include a probiotic.
Probiotics can be found in different foods, or it can be taken as a supplement. One of the best food sources, as far as a probiotic goes, is yogurt. Yogurt is made from milk that has been fermented by fermented bacteria, such as lactic acid bacteria. Along with reducing gut-related symptoms (such as diarrhea) due to antibiotic use, yogurt can also benefit your health in other ways, such as improving bone health and controlling blood pressure. Not all yogurt contains probiotic, so when choosing a yogurt make sure you read the label and look for the words “active bacterial cultures” or “live cultures.” Probiotics can also be found in other dairy products as well as a variety of vegetables and fermented soybeans.
Along with helping reduce symptoms associated with antibiotic use, probiotics have many other added health benefits. They can play a huge role in immunity, improve digestion (especially helping us absorb essential nutrients that have cancer-fighting effects), improve the skin, and reduce the risk of a wide range of diseases. Patients with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (also known as IBS) and ulcerative colitis also say they’ve noticed a decrease in symptoms as a result of taking antibiotics. Probiotic use has also been linked to improved oral health and weight loss, though there has not been as much evidence to support these claims. Regardless, there are many benefits to taking a probiotic.
Just as anything else you take, probiotics also aren’t free of side effects. While probiotics provide relief for antibiotic-related diarrhea and other gastrointestinal/digestive issues, one of the most common side effects reported as a result of taking probiotics is an increase in gas and bloating. You may also develop constipation. However, these symptoms are only temporary and will usually dissipate after a few weeks. If you are concerned or notice any of these symptoms, it won’t hurt to speak with your family physician or get a pharmacist’s advice. Probiotics (especially probiotic foods like yogurt) may also trigger headaches and migraines, increase histamine levels, and may even increase the risk of infection in those with suppressed immune systems if the bacteria or yeast found in probiotics were to enter the bloodstream, though the chance of this happening is extremely rare.