Probiotics vs Antibiotics : Ever had an upset stomach after you’ve taken antibiotics, especially at a stretch? For almost a third of all people, Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea (AAD) and other forms of gastrointestinal distress are common side-effects when some antibiotics are taken for extended periods, and can continue even after the infection is gone.
In addition to the almost-guaranteed gastric ailments that show up with antibiotic use, you could also suffer from decreased immunity and become more vulnerable to pathogens that attack your system.
Why does This Happen?
Well, along with the pathogens that cause infection, antibiotics also tend to kill off a sizeable chunk of ‘good’ bacteria. This shifts the balance of the gut flora, allowing unwanted ‘bad’ bacteria to thrive, and inviting other harmful microorganisms to take up residence in your body too.
The Link between Antibiotics and Probiotics
‘Biotics’ refers to living factors in the environment, and within the human system, the term refers to the bacteria in it. Now, like all things good and bad, the human body is populated with both good (probiotic) and bad (pathogenic) bacteria.
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is known to function as a major immunological organ, where the good bacteria do most of their work. Probiotics secrete acetate and lactate that suppresses pathogens and prevents them from destroying your immunity. They also help your body build better immunity against pathogens.
When you’re ill, it’s often pathogens at work, which all too often occurs when a poor diet and/or stress lead to lower populations of good bacteria. Since antibiotics do not differentiate between the different kinds of bacteria they’re fighting, they tend to act indiscriminately, reducing the population of probiotic bacteria along with the pathogens.
Once suppressed with antibiotics, the probiotic microbes cannot repopulate the system right away, and pathogens such as Pseudomonas, Clostridium, Klebsiella, Salmonella, E. coli and Candida (a powerful member of the fungi family), can conquer.
Are Antibiotics Really the Wonder Drugs they Seem to Be?
Since the early 20th century, antibiotics have been hailed as a miracle cure for practically any disease or disorder. While there’s no doubt that they served a purpose and continue to do so, their misuse or prolonged use could have severe ill effects on your health.
- Fact: According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 50 percent of prescribed antibiotics are unnecessary!Although antibiotics are good for treating bacterial infections like strep throat, ejecting the parasites like intestinal worms, as well as treating some fungal infections like bronchitis, the most dangerous side effect of antibiotics is that it causes pathogens to adapt to the drug in use.
- Fact: In recent years, we’ve seen the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which kill nearly 23,000 Americans each year!
Destructive Effects of Antibiotics on Health
Let’s take a look at some of the damaging effects that antibiotics have on our system, step by step:
- Step 1 – The Immune System is Disabled: A poor immune system can make one catch infections far more easily than a gut populated with good flora. Our fast-paced life demands quick solutions. We pop the ‘anti’-biotics to kill bad bacteria, but unfortunately it also kills good bacteria, i.e. probiotics.Since antibiotics cannot distinguish between good and bad flora in your guts, this leaves behind some serious consequences in your gut, which causes “that bad gut feeling”.
- Step 2 – The Side Effects Show Up: Weakness due to diarrhea is the most common side effect with antibiotics. The destruction of protective ‘good’ bacteria leads to fungal infections of the mouth, digestive tract, and vaginal tract too. The more serious, though rare side effects are the formation of kidney stones, abnormal blood clotting, increased sensitivity to the sun, blood disorders, and deafness.In older people, a type of colitis (inflamed bowel) can lead to debilitating diarrhea. Besides penicillin, cephalosporin and erythromycin, clindamycin prescribed for serious infections can cause severe diarrhea, weakness, and lowered immunity.
- Step 3 – The Ugly Reactions Follow: Prolonged intake of antibiotics, especially penicillin, can lead to severe reactions like ugly rashes, swelling of the face and tongue, and difficulty in breathing – an anaphylactic reaction that leaves you in terrible discomfort. Antibiotic use can also cause recurrent bacterial vaginosis, yeast and candida infections in women, since the vaginal microflora is unbalanced by antibiotics.
If you suffer from a reduced liver or kidney function, or are pregnant or breast-feeding, use antibiotics with caution. In addition, as far as possible, stick to natural methods of healing. These may take a little more time to work and show visible results, but they continue to work ‘behind the scene’ to make your vital systems healthier and stronger as a whole.
Probiotics and Antibiotics: The Safe Union of “Pro & Anti”
Safe Union Doctors are now wiser to the damage that antibiotics taken alone can cause, especially with strong antibiotics or those taken over a long duration. So today, when prescribing antibiotics to tackle an infection, many health professionals advise that you take probiotics with antibiotics, which can help solve many issues.
Here are some of the positive effects of taking probiotics with antibiotics:
- Better and Smoother Digestion – During or after a course of antibiotics, those suffering from symptoms of intestinal problems like abdominal pain, cramps, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, as well as patients who have been diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), feel immediate relief when they also take lactobacillus and bifidobacteria probiotics while taking antibiotics.
- Decrease in Urinary Tract Disorders – Most women who suffer from urinary tract infections and turn to antibiotics as a solution to find temporary relief, but find infections returning afterward. When you take probiotics with antibiotics, however, and continue to take probiotics after antibiotics have removed the infection, it prevents pathogenic bacteria from repopulating the urinary tract.
- Relief from Recurrent Vaginal Infections – When the vaginal pH or microflora balance is off, pathogenic bacteria can spread, causing bacterial vaginosis, which in turn often gives rise to yeast infections. In fact, these ailments seem to keep coming back even after antibiotic use has ended. Good bacteria like L. acidophilus can prevent infection and keep it at bay, so taking probiotics while on antibiotics is definitely a good idea!
- Stronger Immune System – Probiotics primarily help build good intestinal flora, which in turn nurtures a healthy and strong immune system. Studies show that fermented dairy drinks can help increase lymphocytes – markers of a good immune system. The introduction of probiotics during pregnancy also helps strengthen the immune system of the infant, especially with childhood eczema and allergies.
The benefits of probiotics certainly do not end there, so make sure to check out what all these friendly bacteria actually do for you. Some have said that probiotic supplements are the ‘new age antibiotics’, which may very well be true – Certain probiotics even create natural antibiotic-like substances, fighting pathogens without affecting gut health!