Since time immemorial humankind has had to struggle and fend off microbial infections. Ancient civilizations often treated deadly plagues with herbal remedies, and there is evidence to suggest that some modern-day antibiotics were available to these people in some form. The advent of penicillin in 1928 transformed the world of medicine forever and elevated the fight against dangerous bacteria like never before in history. Since then antibiotics have saved countless lives and made possible advances in medicine that seemed fever dreams but a few generations back. In developing countries, where proper sanitation measures are usually not widely enforced, antibiotics play an important role in improving quality of life and decreasing mortality in patients.
But not all is what it seems in the world of antibiotic medicine. In many cases, antibiotic use will generate serious side effects. Some common side effects caused by antibiotic use are:
- Abdominal Pain
- Leukopenia or a diminished leukocyte count
- Thrombocytopenia or a lower blood platelet count
- Low blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
Although most of these side effects are rare, some of them, such as those related to the gastrointestinal system, are quite common. There are a few countermeasures against this problem but, by far, the most effective is taking probiotic supplements.
HOW CAN PROBIOTIC THERAPIES HELP?
One of the defining characteristics of modern antibiotic treatments is that most of them are based on medium to broad-spectrum antibacterials. This fact means that antibiotic treatments do not discriminate when killing bacteria housed within the human body. Broad-spectrum antibiotics will kill harmful bacteria, but they will also raze any beneficial bacteria from your organism.
There are a vast number of beneficial microorganisms found inside of our bodies. Our entire digestive system, including our stomachs and intestines, is host trillions of microbial organisms; most of which are necessary for proper function of the human body.
Some of these organisms are in charge of fatty acid synthesis, the production of essential vitamins, as well as bile acid metabolism. Because of this, any significant reduction in their number will manifest in a variety of medical conditions.
This is how supplemental probiotic therapies can help offset the damage done by antibiotic consumption. As we all know by now, Probiotics are able to strengthen and repopulate beneficial bacteria without causing any significant side effects. This safety profile allows probiotic therapies to safely and efficiently reduce microbial adhesion, improve immune reaction and promote gastrointestinal integrity during antibiotic use.
WHAT PROBIOTICS SHOULD I TAKE WHILE ON ANTIBIOTICS?
Many probiotic organisms have been used historically as aids during antibiotic treatments. A probiotic supplement may contain one or more strains of symbiotic microorganisms, but a few of them stand above the rest. In order to efficiently counteract the harmful effects of antibiotic medication, ingested probiotics must be able to withstand the body’s innate mechanisms that protect against bacterial microorganism infection. The best probiotic candidates to take during antibiotic treatments must be able to survive the body’s gastric acid, bile salts, and pancreatic enzymes.
LACTOBACILLUS: Lactobacillus is a genus of anaerobic, aerobic-tolerant Gram-positive bacteria, so named because most of the member strains convert lactose and some mono-saccharides into lactic acid, resulting in lactic fermentation. Their innate ability to synthesize lactic acid makes them extremely efficient at inhibiting the growth of harmful pathogenic agents in the gastrointestinal tract. One study recently published in the Journal of Food Protection revealed that Lactobacillus strains are highly resistant to several antibiotic types, which makes them perfect for repopulation of gut flora during antimicrobial treatment. Although not all Lactobacillus strains are suitable for use in probiotic supplements, their natural resistance may allow for the effective development of compound antibiotic and probiotic combinations to treat such conditions as diarrhea and urogenital tract infection.
SACCHAROMYCES BOULARDII: Numerous studies and clinical trials have suggested the potential of Saccharomyces boulardii to treat and alleviate many gastrointestinal disorders caused by antibiotic consumption. Saccharomyces boulardii is the nonpathogenic yeast that has been used for the prevention and successful treatment of diarrheic ailments. Repeatedly, Saccharomyces boulardii has been shown to be highly effective against inflammatory gastrointestinal conditions. One of the advantages of this strain of yeast is that it stays within the digestive tract instead of spreading to other areas of the body. A randomized placebo-controlled study led by Lynn McFarland discovered that patients treated with Saccharomyces boulardii had a much lower chance of suffering from recurring Clostridium difficile infection. Clostridium difficile infections are one of the most severe diarrheal infections associated with antibiotic use.
HOW SHOULD I TAKE PROBIOTICS AND ANTIBIOTICS TOGETHER?
It is important to note that while probiotic supplements will not directly alter the efficacy of antibiotic medicines, the opposite is not true. Antibiotics by definition have the ability to inhibit the efficacy of probiotic therapies drastically. It is important to take them separately in order to maximize the probabilities of success of each treatment. The most common recommendation made by doctors worldwide is to wait at least two hours before taking one after having taken the other. This will give enough leeway for the probiotic organisms to survive the most immediate antibacterial effects of antibiotic medication.
Another point to consider is the number of live organisms provided by the chosen probiotic therapy. In order to get the most benefit out of your probiotics, you should aim to consume supplements with a high CFU, or colony forming unit, count. This will ensure that the probiotic microbes stand a better fighting chance.
Since most antibiotic treatments last for several days up to a couple of weeks, it is recommended that you extend the consumption of probiotics after having finished antibiotic therapy for a few weeks to guarantee that your gastrointestinal system resumes normal function. Extending the use of probiotics even further will have no adverse effects and will provide plenty of additional health benefits, so it should be considered.
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