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The Connection Between Probiotics And Antibiotics
July 25, 2017
Just about everyone has taken antibiotics at one time or another to fight a bacterial infection. Antibiotics, as the name implies, are “anti-biotic.” While they do an excellent job at killing harmful bacteria, they also kill the good ones we need to help ensure that our digestive system continues to work the way it should. As a result, we could be at risk for diarrhea. In fact, there’s a specific condition known as antibiotic-associated diarrhea, or AAD. Here are some reasons why you should take probiotic supplements if you’re also taking antibiotics – as long as your doctor allows it, of course.
Why Antibiotics Can Lead to AAD
In some instances, the loss of beneficial bacteria can allow the bad ones that remain to take control of the “gut,” the term often used to describe the gastrointestinal tract. A specific type of pathogenic, or harmful, bacteria is Clostridium difficile. C. difficile thrives in the gut when there is a lack of beneficial bacteria to balance it out. When C. difficile takes over, that’s when we’re at risk for AAD, which is a severe form of diarrhea that can sometimes be life threatening.
However, probiotics can help not only reduce the symptoms associated with AAD, but can sometimes even prevent the condition from developing in the first place.1 Doctors will often recommend that their patients who take antibiotics take probiotics as well in order to make sure there are enough good bacteria in the good to keep the “bad guys” in check, and to replenish the supply of beneficial microbes that have been depleted.
How Do You Choose the Probiotics That are Best for You?
You can find probiotic bacteria in a lot of different types of fermented foods, including yogurt and sauerkraut. But the best way to ensure you have enough good bacteria in your system is to take a supplement. Capsules are the most convenient and effective supplements, but they are also available in powders, gummies and drinks as well. Capsules are more effective because they do a better job of protecting the good microbes inside from the acidic environment of the stomach. If microbes can survive this journey, then they obviously can’t get to the gut in order to do you any good.
There are a lot of different probiotic supplements on the market, and they contain different types of beneficial bacteria. If you are taking antibiotics, you want to make sure you buy a supplement that has microbes known to help fight or prevent AAD.
Not all microbes in probiotics are bacteria. For example, Saccharomyces boulardii is a form of yeast that can help prevent the growth of C. difficile.2 And since antibiotics kill bacteria and not yeasts, S. boulardii will survive during your antibiotic regimen.
You also need to make sure that you take the right dose of probiotic so that you have enough beneficial microbes in your gut. Look at the label of the products you’re considering to see how many colony-forming units, or CFUs, of microbes are contained in each serving. There are some that have only one billion CFUs, while others have hundreds of millions of CFUs. The optimum amount is anywhere from 15-30 billion – this amount will ensure that you have a good supply of beneficial microbes. The instructions will probably recommend that you take two capsules a day in order to get the maximum possible benefits.
Another thing you need to check is the “viability” of the microbes contained in the product. This is just another way of saying whether or not the microbes are alive. Again, the label will provide very important clues. If it says something like, “viable until expiration date,” that means the microbes will be alive when you ingest them. But if the label reads something along the lines of “viable at time of manufacture,” that just means the microbes were alive when the product was made. There won’t be any guarantee that will still be the case when you take it.
After Your Antibiotic Regimen
There’s a good chance your doctor will recommend that you keep taking probiotic supplements well after you stop taking antibiotics. AAD can still develop several weeks after an antibiotic regimen, so you’ll want to keep using probiotics just to be sure.