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How to Stay Healthy While on Antibiotics

Sometimes antibiotics are the only line of defense you have against bacterial infection. They work by either killing the infection-causing bacteria or preventing them from reproducing, depending on the antibiotic’s class.

While most are targeted on a specific type of infection, others are broad spectrum. These are often used when the threat is unclear or where we don’t have a precise treatment for that particular infection.

Healthy Bacteria

The only problem: antibiotics, especially the broad-spectrum ones, are known to wipe out even the important, harmless bacteria that reside in the body – like the gut microbiome. This upsets the balance of the digestive tract. Consequently, you might experience various undesirable symptoms, such as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Indigestion
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain.

Medical professionals will often recommend incorporating a probiotic diet, supplements, or both in your antibiotic regimen. Let’s see why.

What are Probiotics and Why Do People Take Them with Antibiotics?

As mentioned earlier, antibiotics, although vital to fighting bacterial diseases in our bodies, are often not friendly to your digestive tract, as evidenced by the symptoms mentioned above. Sometimes the gut never resumes normalcy or takes too long, even after you are done with your antibacterial dosage.

Fortunately, even when taking your antibiotics, you have a few options that might help restore your gut ecosystem and body health in general. One of them is probiotics.

Probiotics pills vs food

Simply put, probiotics are healthy bacteria that you may find in your gut and are linked to the optimum functioning of the body. Probiotic supplements contain billions of these useful microorganisms that help maintain or restore order in the digestive system.

These beneficial bacteria counteract the negative effects of antibiotics by replacing the lost ones. They bring back the normal balance of the communities of important bacteria in the body. A few examples of such helpful probiotics include strains of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria, and saccharomyces (a useful yeast).

Probiotics, whether in the form of food or supplements, may be taken during or after the antibiotic regimen.

Probiotics vs. Prebiotics

In a nutshell, prebiotics are food for the important bacteria that exist within the gut microbiome (probiotics). Much like any other organism, bacteria need to feed – that’s exactly what prebiotics provide. Feeding the bacteria either before or after taking an antibiotic can help restore balance in the gut. Some foods and ingredients contain few prebiotics. They include:

  • Bananas
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Chicory root
  • Garlic
  • Jerusalem artichokes.

What’s more, some manufactured foods are loaded with prebiotics. They include:

  • Cereals
  • Yogurt
  • Bread
  • Infant formula.

When checking food labels for prebiotics, you want to be on the lookout for terms such as:

  • Galactooligosaccharides (GOS)
  • Chicory fiber
  • Fructooligosaccharides (FOS)
  • Inulin
  • Oligofructose (OF).

Caveat: most prebiotics, as you may have noticed, are dietary fibers. Consuming them in large quantities may result in bloating.

Probiotics that Pair Well with Antibiotics 

Probiotic bacteria Prebiotics Probiotics and Fermented Food/ Drink
  • Milk kefir
  • Yogurt
  • Berries
  • Onions
  • Apples
  • Whole grains
Lactic acid bacteria (Lactococcus and Lactobacillus)
  • Yogurt
  • Sauerkraut
  • Lacto-fermented vegetables
  • Soy
  • Chicory root
  • Barley
  • Apples

Although some foods may contain probiotics and/ or prebiotics, it is often in small quantities and not enough to alleviate the symptoms resulting from antibiotics, especially when they are pronounced. Medical practitioners recommend complementing your probiotic supplements with the right diet, though.

When Should You Take Probiotics?

It is not uncommon to wonder whether probiotics should be taken alongside your antibiotics or after the treatment is over. The correct answer is either can do, depending on your preferences or urgency to correct your gut microbiome. However, experts highly advise against pairing them at the exact same time. Otherwise, the antibiotics might also destroy the bacteria you are trying to introduce through the probiotics.

You are better off taking your probiotics a few hours after the antibiotic or before. For instance, if your antibiotic dosage is for morning and evening, you’ll want to take the probiotic supplements in the middle of the day. The general rule of thumb is to just take them in between the daily dosages. That way, you give the antibiotic time to clear off the gut as much as possible before you introduce the useful bacteria.

Probiotic Supplements

What’s more, dietitians and medics recommend that you go on taking your prebiotics up to a minimum of one or two weeks after the antibiotics regimen is over. Why? Because the effect of medicines on gut microbiota goes on a little longer after you are done with the course of treatment.

Remember, the only reason it’s advisable not to take probiotics and antibiotics simultaneously is that the antibiotics might reduce the efficiency of your prebiotics. Other than that, there is no chemical interaction between the two whatsoever.

In fact, probiotic supplements have an excellent safety profile. Only rare and minor side effects have been reported, including diarrhea, constipation, thirst, bloating, flatulence, rash, abdominal pain, vomiting, and nausea.

What Symptoms of Antibiotics Use Can Be Eliminated with Probiotics?

A lot of the symptoms associated with antibiotic medications can subside or stop entirely with the introduction of probiotics, but they are no panacea. Nevertheless, things often get more comfortable with probiotics than they would without them.

That being said, probiotics may be taken to prevent the symptoms of antibiotics or reverse them. In case you’ve suffered under such a treatment before or you simply don’t want to find out and wish to prevent the consequences of taking antibiotics, consider incorporating probiotics into your therapy.

On the flip side, you could already be experiencing the adverse reactions and wish to stop them by returning your digestive tract to its norm, in which case probiotics would still make for a great solution. Among the problems that probiotics could solve are:

1. Antibiotic-associated Diarrhea (AAD)

One of the most common undesired outcomes of antibiotic regimens is diarrhea, affecting about 1 in 3 individuals who are on the medication. As mentioned earlier, antibiotics can destroy both the good and bad bacteria in your system. The beneficial bacteria in your intestine play a crucial role in keeping you healthy. Destroying them might result in various unwanted outcomes.

For one, they help with water absorption and maintaining firm stools. Moreover, they keep opportunistic bacteria such as Clostridium difficile (C. diff) in check. When the gut microbiome is upset, C. diff bacteria take advantage and multiply, causing infection and producing toxins that might lead to inflammation and diarrhea.

Probiotics replace the beneficial bacteria in your gut, thereby correcting the processes that lead to a normal stool. One research that reviewed 17 studies revealed that using probiotics could reduce the chances of developing AAD significantly.

2. Stomach Pain

Just like with diarrhea, stomach pain might result from the suppression of gut flora by antibiotics. The inflammation caused by the spread of C. diff bacteria often manifests in the form of painful stomach cramps. In mild cases, the symptoms may last up to 2 weeks after the treatment, while in severe cases, it may go on for weeks after the medication.

To combat these unwanted effects, you may want to accompany your antibiotics regimen with probiotics as well as consume the complementary foods we mentioned earlier.

So, what can you do if you’re suffering from stomach pain?

    • Try applying a hot pack as you would with cramps
      • can be a hot water bottle or a heating pad
      • this helps the stomach relax. 
    • Warm up some chamomile tea
      • this herbal remedy helps ease inflammation
      • it soothes the stomach
    • Drink up rice water
      • this can create a soothing barrier in the stomach lining
    • Warm up some ginger tea
      • great against nausea, it relaxes the muscles in your intestinal tract
      • also effective with stomach cramps.

Hopefully, these home remedies alongside probiotics can help with stomach pain.

3. Nausea

Antibiotics such as erythromycin and aspirin are known to cause nausea. Other drugs (such as ibuprofen, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, and nifedipine, a blood pressure drug) may trigger vomiting as well. In some cases, nausea may be a reflection of the way the medication works – like pain medications such as Vicodin and Percocet interact with the part of the brain that’s in charge of nausea and vomiting.

In the case of antibiotics, however, nausea is often directly linked to digestion issues. This is common among older people whose guts retain the medication for long before fully absorbing it across the walls of the digestive tract.

Experts recommend taking probiotics with antibiotics to restore the gut flora ecosystem. This brings things up to speed again during treatments that involve antibiotics.

4. Bloating

It still boils down to the upset of the normal balance of the gut microbiome. Antibiotics may lead to over-multiplication of the wrong bacteria in the small intestine. Consequently, you may experience bloating even long after you’ve finished your antibiotic dosage. 

This type of infection may require probiotics to reestablish the normal gut bacterial balance or a change of medication entirely.

Remember, probiotics are not a one-fix-all solution but could go a long way as far as the restoration of the healthy functioning of your digestive system is concerned. If you find that the symptoms are not subsiding even after introducing the supplements to your course of treatment, you should consider discussing the matter with your doctor.

How to Take Probiotics Correctly

As you probably already know by now, when pairing probiotics with antibiotics, you want to take the probiotics a few hours after the antibiotics to increase their chances of survival. But antibiotics are not the only threat your precious, useful bacteria face. They have to survive the stomach acid long enough to reach the lower portions of your gut.

Why is that an issue? The acidity of the stomach is influenced by several factors, among them the emptiness or fullness of your belly. During a fasting phase (when you are extremely hungry or starving), gastric pH will most probably range between 1.7 and 2, which is very acidic.

On the contrary, the pH will typically rise after a meal, making it less acidic in your gut. But it gets more complicated than that; food intake also triggers the release of enzymes into the stomach. The digestive enzymes may damage your probiotics, too.

Moreover, taking them alongside a heavy meal might slow things down as well. Why? Because the food would take longer to digest, delaying the journey of the useful bacteria to the lower parts of the gastrointestinal (G.I.) tract. Delayed time also means the probiotics will be exposed to the stomach acid and digestive enzymes longer. 

So, to answer the question of whether to take probiotics on an empty belly or not, you want to have just a little food in your stomach but not a heavy meal. Another way of determining your best timing for probiotics is considering your reasons for taking them in the first place.

If you are trying to combat digestive issues (the likes of bloating and diarrhea), you want to take them at every meal. When attempting to improve the quality of sleep, of course, you’ll want to take them before bed. Experts are beginning to establish a lot of links between probiotics and the sleep-wake cycles.

Another important consideration is your schedule. An early riser has more to gain from a probiotic regimen by taking it in the morning. The same applies to the night owls.

Also, remember to complement your probiotics with prebiotic fibers (such as onions, garlic leeks, jicama, and dandelion greens) or other prebiotic foods such as yogurt and fermented grains as much as you can. They’ll help establish a nurturing environment for your “good” bacteria to reproduce.

Probiotics and Prebiotics Timing

Reason/ Daily Schedule Best time to take your probiotics Best time to take your prebiotics
Stomach problems (diarrhea, nausea, cramps, pain) Alongside a meal As part of meals
Insomnia Before bed Before bed
Working at night In the evening In the evening, as part of a meal

The Best Cheap Probiotics We Recommend

Which is the best probiotic to take with the commonly prescribed antibiotics such as Amoxil, Avelox, Cipro, Chloromycetin, or Zithromax?

Well, after paying special attention to affordability, here are the top three probiotics that we believe are not only great for antibiotic prophylaxis but also cheap and easy to fit right into your daily schedule.

1. Yogut: 

Yogut® capsules can help your body normalize its gut organisms and flora. Although, as we mentioned in this article, the use of some antibiotics can cause diverse side effects, including diarrhea, Yogut® capsules can be quite useful in treating them accordingly.

2. PrePro: 

PrePro® capsules are commonly used for bowel problems. Therefore, they are ideal for people struggling with IBS, constipation, diarrhea, and other common problems associated with taking antibiotics. Besides, they can also be beneficial for eczema.

3. Pro-Wel

Pro-Wel® sachet is used for gastric ulcers, among other gastrointestinal conditions. It has an active probiotic composite hence contains multiple bacterial strains, which are vital for balancing the gut mucosa.

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