The introduction of antibiotics was a real turning point for mainstream medicine. They have saved many lives and still play an extremely important role in combating bacterial infection.
But whilst successfully inhibiting the growth of pathogenic (harmful) bacteria, antibiotics are now understood to significantly disrupt protective intestinal and vaginal microbiota, significantly reducing bacteria considered to have health promoting properties.
A diverse microflora plays an important role in the functioning of strong immune and digestive systems. Candida spp. overgrowth is often seen after a course of antibiotics when the defence layer of beneficial bacteria in the gut has been disturbed.
Antibiotic Associated Diarrhoea (AAD)
Antibiotics, as with any medication, can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. By altering the microbial balance within the gastrointestinal tract, further pathogenic bacteria are able to selectively overgrow increasing the risk of developing a further intestinal infection; the main symptom of which being diarrhoea. Rates of AAD vary from 5 to 39%, with the young and the elderly most at risk and those more serious requiring hospitalisation.
Doctors now often recommend probiotic supplements and probiotic foods, such as yoghurts or kefir, to be taken alongside a course of antibiotics in order to restore the microflora in the the gut that is killed by the antbiotics.
Advice from Nature’s Corner Health Food Shop
Anita from Nature’s Corner in Newbury says that taking a multi-strain probiotic during and after antibiotic therapy, promotes a more rapid return to healthy pre-antibiotic bacteria levels.
During your course of antibiotics, extra protection could be provided by consuming a daily probiotic supplement, at least 2 hours apart from the antibiotics and continued for at least 6-8 weeks after completion of the antibiotic course at a minimum dose of 5 billion a day. An additional strategy could be to support the body’s natural immunity to prevent initial infection by considering regular consumption of probiotics as a daily preventative.
Important tips for supporting general health whilst on antibiotics:
- Eat fermented or prebiotic food – They can naturally help rebalance the gut microbiome and improve 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 probiotics could help manage these side effects and make it possible for you to finish the prescribed course which is important to do so even if you feel better. Because if you don’t finish the entire course there might still be a few harmful bacteria that survived and they can become resistant to antibiotics.
- Eat a healthy diet – Don’t let the antibiotics do all the work. Include a selection of immune-boosting foods containing Vitamin C and other antioxidants, including citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables.
For further advice on the use of probiotics alongside antibiotics, please feel free to pop into Natures Corner in Newbury or your local independent health store rather than buying probiotic products from a supermarket.