Antibiotics play an essential role in modern medicine. And while they are sometimes absolutely vital, they can cause obvious side effects that can pose certain risks for people’s health. According to data reported by the Canadian Institute for Health Information in 20151, more than 25 million prescriptions for antibiotics were written in Canada. There is sometimes a tendency to overprescribe these drugs, and occasionally their use is not appropriate (like if you’re suffering from a cold). Consequently, this can hurt vulnerable patients in addition to increasing their antibiotic resistance.
How do antibiotics work?
Antibiotics are used to treat illnesses caused by a bacteria infection, such as ear infections, sinus infections, strep throat, and pneumonia. Where antibiotics aren’t effective is against viral illnesses.
There are two ways antibiotics work;2 they can prevent the growth or multiplication of bacteria, or they kill them (without affecting human cells).
However, as there are billions of bacteria living in a person’s digestive tract (microbiota), the antibiotic doesn’t necessarily distinguish between the good bacteria and the bad bacteria when it unleashes its effects.
One way antibiotics are classified is according to how they work. Some antibiotics have very targeted actions, while others are more broad-spectrum, destroying a wide range and types of bacteria, including beneficial bacteria.
Side effects of antibiotics
We now know using of antibiotics has gastrointestinal repercussions and potential long-term implications on overall health. Dysbiosis is typically at the root of these adverse issues.
What we know about gut microbiota is that diversity and quality of bacteria are synonymous with good health. Before catching an infection that requires antibiotics, a person with a healthy and diverse microbiota will benefit from a protective effect. Two of the main aspects associated with taking antibiotics are the decline in the richness of bacterial species and the presence of resistance genes. 4,5 This may persist for months or even years after a course of antibiotics.
Decrease microbiome diversity
A decrease in the variety of species and the quantity of bacteria notably results in the loss of communication between microorganisms in the digestive tract and the intestine’s immune cells. The outcome of this is an altered immune response, making the individual more vulnerable to the next infection, especially resistant pathogens like Clostridium difficile and Salmonella enterica.7
Develop gastrointestinal problems
One in five people may experience adverse effects caused by antibiotics. Symptoms experienced are primarily gastrointestinal (diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation). In the long term, studies have also made a connection between taking antibiotics and the potential risks of suffering metabolic conditions such as obesity, diabetes and immunological disorders (asthma and allergies).3,6
One of the main side effects identified following a course of antibiotics is AAD (antibiotic-associated diarrhea). This symptom may arise up to eight weeks after finishing the antibiotic treatment and varies according to age, the person’s sensitivity and the prescribed antibiotic class.
Further to this, higher levels of inflammatory molecules were identified in people with dysbiosis, and antibiotic use was associated with an increase in intestinal permeability, allowing these inflammatory molecules to enter the bloodstream.
Given the multiple consequences of antibiotic use, how can we better protect ourselves when we have to take them?
Taking probiotics with antibiotics
So, can you take probiotics with antibiotics? Thankfully, taking probiotics is one of the steps how to restore gut health. Many studies and articles are available discussing the importance of taking the right types of probiotics with antibiotics and continuing their use after the medication has been completed to limit this treatment’s undesirable effects and help in microbiome restoration. These probiotic bacteria won’t colonize the gut mucosa that was partly destroyed by the medication, but they will increase the efficiency of pathogenic bacterial eradication8 and will support the immune response, having an anti-inflammatory effect. 9
Helps protect your gut microbiota
Taking a probiotic supplement like Bio-K+ during and after the course of an antibiotic treatment is an important step in protecting your gut microbiota. Bio-K+ is a 100% probiotic product that contains three unique probiotic bacteria strains that have been clinically proven to be effective in preventing AAD or antibiotic associated diarrhea. Bio-K+ probiotics are Health Canada approved for this specific indication.
How to take probiotics with antibiotics?
Throughout your course of antibiotics, consume 1 to 2 drinkable Bio-K+ bottles or 1 to 2 Bio-K+ 50 billion capsules per day at least two- three hours away from your antibiotic. Continue with this dosage for five (5) days after completing the course of antibiotics then gradually reduce your daily consumption to ¼ of a bottle or one (1) 12.5 billion capsule to maintain healthy gut flora.
Antibiotics may be medically necessary from time to time. Remember that along with the bad bacteria they also remove the good bacteria. When they’re truly necessary, it’s wise to do everything you can to limit the impact on gut flora to prevent adverse health effects from occurring. If you have been prescribed antibiotics, it’s important to eat a varied diet, including lots of fibre rich foods (gut bacteria love prebiotic fibre) as well as a daily intake of clinically-proven probiotic supplement such as Bio-K+.
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3. Gibson MK, Crofts TS et Dantas G (2015) Antibiotics and the developing infant gut microbiota and resistome. Curr Opin Microbiol 1-12.
4. Gasparrini AJ, Crofts TS, Gibson MK, Tarr PI, Warner BB et Dantas G (2016) Antibiotic perturbation of the preterm infant gut microbiome and resistome. Gut Microbes 443-449.
5. Jakobsson HE, Jernberg C, Andersson AF, Sjölund-Karlsson M, Jansson JK et Engstrand L (2010) Short-Term Antibiotic Treatment Has Differing Long-Term Impacts on the Human Throat and Gut Microbiome. PLoS ONE 1-12.
6. Jernberg C, Löfmark S, Edlund C et Jansson JK (2010) Long-term impacts of antibiotic exposure on the human intestinal microbiota. Microbiology 3216-3223.
7. Raymann K, Shaffer Z et Moran NA (2017) Antibiotic exposure perturbs the gut microbiota and elevates mortality in honeybees. PLoS Biol 1-22.
8. Lü M, Yu S, Deng J, Yan Q, Yang C, Xia G et Zhou X (2016) Efficacy of Probiotic Supplementation Therapy for Helicobacter pylori Eradication: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. PLoS ONE 1-26.
9. Ekmekciu I, Klitzing EV, Fiebiger U, Neumann C, Bacher P, Scheffold A, Bereswill S et Heimesaat MM (2017) The Probiotic Compound VSL#3 Modulates Mucosal, Peripheral, and Systemic Immunity Following Murine Broad-Spectrum Antibiotic Treatment. Front. Cell. Infect. Microbiol. 1-19.
10. Shi Y, Zhao X, Zhao J, Zhang H, Zhai Q, Narbad A et Chen W (2018) A mixture of Lactobacillus species isolated from traditional fermented foods promote recovery from antibiotic-induced intestinal disruption in mice. J Appl Microbiol 842-854.