How probiotics may help you deal with the uncomfortable side effects of antibiotics
probioticswith antibioticsis safe and may help you cope with side effects of antibiotics.
- Probiotics may be most helpful when taken after a course of antibiotics is finished.
- Research shows that probiotics may help relieve or prevent diarrhea associated with antibiotics.
Yes, you can take probiotics during or after a dose of antibiotics. In fact, some doctors recommend it. Here's why probiotics can help you get back on track and the best time to take them.
How antibiotics work
If you have a bacterial infection, like strep throat or a UTI, your doctor will likely prescribe you an antibiotic for treatment.
The purpose of the antibiotic is to destroy the harmful bacteria that are making you sick. However, antibiotics don't know the difference between harmful bacteria and the helpful bacteria in your gut that comprise your microbiome.
Therefore, as they work to make you better, antibiotics can also disrupt both the balance and amount of good bacteria in your gut. Research has shown that certain changes in intestinal bacteria can be associated with a higher risk of diseases like obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, and depression. It is not yet fully clear whether these changes are causal or simply result from the same metabolic predispositions that cause these.
However, it's safe and often recommended to take probiotics during and after a course of antibiotics, since they can decrease some of the side effects of antibiotics.
"Probiotics are live microorganisms. They are generally safe to consume," says Rudolph Bedford, MD, a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John's
Probiotics can be taken as a supplement or you can get them by consuming fermented foods and drinks like yogurt, kombucha, and kimchi.
The best time to take probiotics: during and after treatment
Bedford recommends that you start taking probiotics the same day as an antibiotic treatment.
While you're on antibiotics, take those first before the probiotics. Don't take them at the exact same time because the antibiotics could destroy the bacteria from the probiotic and cancel out any beneficial effects, Bedford says.
"You don't want the probiotic on board until a couple of hours after the antibiotic itself is taken," says Bedford.
Moreover, Bedford highly recommends that you continue to take probiotics for two weeks after you've completed your antibiotic dose to get your gut microbiome back to normal.
Take probiotics to reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhea
Diarrhea is a common side effect of antibiotics. However, preliminary research suggests that taking probiotics may help prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD).
For example, one review of 17 studies found that taking a probiotic may reduce the risk of developing AAD by 51%.
Moreover, some antibiotics can leave you more vulnerable to certain infections, like Clostridium difficile (C. diff). This is a bacterial infection that can cause diarrhea, an inflamed colon, and, in severe cases death.
However, preliminary research found that taking probiotics may help prevent diarrhea from C. diff infections, though the correlation was weak. For example, based on a review of 31 studies, researchers report that one case of diarrhea for every 42 C. diff-infected patients may be prevented from taking probiotics.
As for what type of probiotic to take, one option is a yeast called Saccharomyces boulardii CNCM I-745, sold under the brand name Florastar. This probiotic supplement is used to help prevent and treat diarrhea.
Those who are immunocompromised may not benefit from probiotics and should discuss other options with a doctor.
It may be a good idea to take probiotics with antibiotics in order to deal with the uncomfortable symptoms of antibiotics like diarrhea. You can also get the same benefits of probiotics by eating naturally probiotic foods like yogurt, kombucha, and kimchi.
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