How Do Probiotics And Antibiotics Work In Your Gut?

probiotics and antibiotics

In a study from Ontario, the use of probiotic supplements can reduce the need for antibiotics.

But, how does this happen? Do these medications work the same way?

In this article, you will learn more about probiotics, what these good bacteria do to your gut, how antibiotics affect your digestive tract, what happens when you take probiotics and antibiotic drugs together, and how to manage your gut health while on antibiotic therapy.

Is It Good To Take Probiotics And Antibiotics Together?

What Are Probiotics

In the body, there are good and bad bacteria.

Probiotics are live, helpful bacteria in the body and during bacterial infections, the numbers of harmful ones are higher.

Fortunately, healthy bacteria work to eliminate these bad ones.

The main role of probiotics is to maintain a healthy gut bacteria balance. Aside from the gut microbiome, healthy bacteria are also seen on the mouth, vagina, urinary tract, skin, and lungs. 

Probiotics Types

If you wonder, what are the types of bacteria in the probiotic supplements you take, the common ones include the following:

  • Lactobacillus
  • Bifidobacterium

There are also probiotic products made up of yeast. One of these includes saccharomyces boulardii.

Aside from supplements, you can get probiotics from fiber-rich foods and drinks. Some of the fiber-rich foods are dandelions, raspberries, green peas, and broccoli.

You can also try yogurt, buttermilk, sourdough bread, cottage cheese, kombucha, tempeh, fermented pickles, kimchi, fermented sauerkraut, and miso soup.

Probiotics and their Positive Effects on Health

Healthy bacteria fight off against bad bacteria.

Eventually, this can restore the balance in your body and overall wellness. Aside from balancing gut flora, other benefits of using probiotic products include the following.

1) Beneficial bacteria provide immune system support

One of the benefits of taking probiotics is the enhancement of immune function.

Consistent with a study from Argentina, it was reported that taking probiotics increases both gut microbiota and immune response.

2) Controlling inflammation caused by harmful bacteria

Probiotics can also help in managing inflammation. In clinical trials from Iran, probiotic supplementation can reduce the concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

This also means that probiotics are helpful for patients with inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

3) Aids digestion and supports nutrient absorption

Generally, using probiotics helps you digest the food you eat.

These bacteria boost your digestive health and they also support your body extracts the nutrients you take from the foods you consume. 

This means that probiotics can also improve the digestion of lactose-intolerant individuals and reduce digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea.

Getting an Antibiotic Treatment

Moving on, let us talk about what antibiotics do to the gut.

Antibiotics play an important role in reducing mortality and morbidity in the health industry as getting an antibiotic treatment can help treat bacterial infections such as strep throat. 

However, taking antibiotics can also impact your gut microbiome by reducing pathogenic bacteria.

Eventually, this can cause certain health discomforts such as antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Other ways of antibiotic use affect the gut health include:

  • Reducing probiotic strains such as Bifidobacterium 
  • Colonization of opportunistic pathogens such as Clostridium difficile. This pathogen is associated with pediatric antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
  • Increased risk of vaginal yeast infections.

Aside from affecting the gut flora, taking antibiotics for a longer period can also increase the risk of antibiotic resistance, asthma, and weight gain.

Generally, antibiotics work by disrupting the structures of bacterial cells. Antibiotics may be broad-spectrum or narrow-spectrum.

However, antibiotics work differently for everyone. Others may be sensitive to these medications while others can use these antibiotics without any adverse reactions.

Side Effects of Antibiotics

As said, taking antibiotics may come with side effects for some people, especially those who have allergies to these medications.

Some of the common side effects of antibiotic medications will be discussed in this section.

1) Antibiotic-associated diarrhea

In a study from Russia, it was reported that antibiotic-associated diarrhea can be experienced for two or more days after a course of antibiotics.

Additionally, the risk of developing this condition depends on the antibiotics used.

Furthermore, infectious diarrhea is often caused by bacterial overgrowth.

This overgrowth is due to the imbalance in the gut microbiome.

Remember, taking antibiotics can suppress intestinal microflora.

2) Abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal discomforts

Taking antibiotics can also cause pain in the abdomen. In a study published in the Pediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology & Nutrition, the prevalence rate for this side effect is 9%

Also in this study, it was stated that children below 6 years old are most likely to experience it. Fortunately, taking probiotics with antibiotics can reduce the severity of this side effect.

Aside from diarrhea and pain in the abdomen, a course of antibiotics can make a patient experience gastrointestinal discomforts such as nausea and vomiting.

This is the reason why many doctors recommend patients take antibiotic medications, especially macrolide antibiotic drugs, after meals.

c.) Yeast infections

The use of antibiotic drugs also increases the risk of yeast or vaginal infections. Consistent with a study from Michigan, even short courses of antibiotics can increase the relative risk of Candida colonization.

In a comparative study from the United Kingdom, it was stated that the most common antibiotics that can promote this side effect include ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, norfloxacin, cefixime, azithromycin, and fosfomycin.

Preventing the occurrence of candidiasis may not be easily done but using antibiotics properly can help reduce this risk.

Taking Probiotics and Antibiotics Together

So, what may happen when patients take probiotics with antibiotics?

Generally, when patients decide to combine probiotics with antibiotic drugs, they promote a healthier gut microbiome. 

As stated above, the use of antibiotics can reduce the pathogens in the gut.

So, to replenish these pathogens, it is highly advised to take probiotics with antibiotics.

In a clinical review from Canada, taking probiotics with antibiotics can reduce the risk of invasion of opportunistic pathogens from entering the body. 

Although not required, keep in mind that probiotics do not alter the effects of antibiotics.

On the other hand, antibiotics can kill probiotics. Only a few strains of probiotics can survive with antibiotics which is why it is important to choose the right supplements. 

Some reports say that the strain Lactobacillus is the best probiotic choice for patients taking antibacterial medications as this strain can survive both acidic stomach and bile salts.

Maintaining Gut Health While on Antibiotics

Probiotics can truly maintain gut health and some of the wellness tips for patients taking antibacterial medications include the following:

  • Take probiotics during breakfast. You can start taking these supplements on the day you start on your antibacterial drugs but do not take them at exactly the same time. If possible, give at least a 2-hour gap.
  • Take the supplements for at least a month after your antibiotic therapy. This period will also depend on the length of the antibacterial course, the strength of the medications, and lifestyle.
  • Stay hydrated and get plenty of rest even after taking antibacterial medications.

To support your general health and immune system while on antibacterial medications, wellness tips such as eating fermented foods or prebiotics, reducing sugary foods, and avoiding alcohol use can also be considered.

Final Thoughts

Indeed, the use of probiotics provides many health benefits not just to gut health but to immune function as well.

Since antibacterial medications can kill the good bacteria in your gut, the use of these probiotics can replenish them, thereby promoting balanced, healthy gut bacteria.

If you wish to take these together, it is advised to use them both with caution.

Antibacterial medications should be used properly to avoid antibacterial resistance and the supplements should be taken at least 2 hours before the drugs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When should I take probiotics after taking antibacterial medications?

Typically, the best time to consume probiotics is at least 2 hours before you take your antibacterial drugs. Usually, the latter should be taken 3x a day after meals, so, you should take the former while having your breakfast.

Do antibacterial drugs alter the effects of probiotic products?

No, there are no drug interactions between these two. Antibacterial drugs do not alter the effects of probiotic products, both those in powder or liquid form. Likewise, probiotic products do not reduce or enhance the effects of antibacterial drugs. 

Aside from probiotic products, what can I do to support my immune function after using antibacterials?

While taking antibacterial drugs, you can also consume prebiotics, fermented foods, vitamins like vitamin K, minerals such as zinc, and foods rich in fiber. You can also support your immune function by getting plenty of rest.