Taking an Antibiotic? How Probiotics can Help

sketch of human intestines and gut microorganismsIt’s fairly common knowledge that antibiotics kill some of the health-promoting bacteria that live within your gut’s complex ecosystem. Taking a probiotic supplement can support the way gut flora work together to keep that ecosystem – and you – at the healthiest.


What Antibiotics Do in the Body

Antibiotics are used to kill two types of bacteria:
(1)  pathogenic bacteria that should not be present in the body and
(2)  pathogenic bacteria that normally reside in the body in very small numbers but which have “overgrown” for some reason.

Unfortunately, while antibiotics are targeting the unwanted pathogenic bacteria, they often disrupt (or destroy) the balance of “good” gut flora. The result: gastrointestinal upset. Up to 20% of people using antibiotics experience antibiotic-associated diarrhea. The longer you use an antibiotic, the more damage that is likely to occur in the gut ecosystem. Some people can experience severe symptoms that progress to inflammation of the colon, which can become life-threatening.

Power of Probiotics

This is where probiotics come in. With an estimated 80% of your immune system located in your gut, taking a probiotic on a regular basis is a good idea for most people, and especially important while taking antibiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms that encourage the growth of good gut bacteria, thus strengthening immunity. And they can help prevent that antibiotic induced diarrhea.

Which probiotic is right for you while taking antibiotics? That depends on your age, general health, current symptoms of illness, and the length of time you have been using any antibiotic medication. Probiotics come in different strains of bacteria, as well as different forms (e.g., liquid, capsule) and are usually refrigerated to preserve the integrity of the microorganisms. The selection of the strain of probiotic you should take – especially while taking an antibiotic-is very important. Just as important is making sure that you take the probiotic at a different time of day than when you take antibiotics and to continue taking the probiotic even after you have finished the antibiotic. Your health practitioner can determine which probiotic formula and dosing strategy is best for your needs.

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Dr. Weil Vitamin Library: Probiotics