Antibiotics are medications used to treat bacterial infections. They work by killing or hindering the growth of bacteria in your body. Although antibiotics can effectively treat bacterial infections, they have a downside. Antibiotics can also destroy the good gut bacteria, which play a crucial role in keeping your digestive system healthy.
The gut is home to trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms collectively known as the gut microbiome. The microbiome helps with digestion, the immune system, and the production of essential vitamins and neurotransmitters. When antibiotics disrupt the balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut, it creates a state of dysbiosis that can lead to various digestive issues such as diarrhea, bloating, and constipation. In rare cases, antibiotics can also cause severe gut infections like Clostridium difficile.
One way to mitigate the damage antibiotics can do to your gut microbiome is by taking probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. Taking probiotics during or after a course of antibiotics can help replenish the gut with beneficial bacteria, restoring the balance and reducing the risks of digestive side effects.
In this article, we’ll explore the best probiotics to take with antibiotics, their benefits, and factors to consider when choosing the right probiotic supplement.
1. Lactobacillus acidophilus
Lactobacillus acidophilus is a species of probiotic bacteria found in the human gut and various dairy products. It’s one of the most researched probiotics and has demonstrated the ability to colonize the gut, support digestive health, and enhance the immune system.
Several studies have reported that taking Lactobacillus acidophilus alongside antibiotics reduces the risk of antibiotic-related diarrhea, particularly in children and adults receiving broad-spectrum antibiotics. Other benefits of Lactobacillus acidophilus include reducing gas and bloating, promoting regular bowel movements, and improving the absorption of nutrients in the gut.
2. Bifidobacterium bifidum
Bifidobacterium bifidum is another beneficial probiotic species commonly found in the human gut. It’s known to support gut health, improve stool consistency, and boost the immune system.
Some research has found that taking Bifidobacterium bifidum supplements alongside antibiotics can significantly reduce the severity and frequency of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Additionally, one study observed that taking a combination of Bifidobacterium bifidum and Lactobacillus acidophilus reduced the risk of developing Clostridium difficile infection in hospitalized patients receiving antibiotics.
3. Saccharomyces boulardii
Saccharomyces boulardii is a probiotic yeast strain that can help prevent and treat diarrhea caused by various factors, including infections, antibiotics, and Clostridium difficile.
Saccharomyces boulardii works by inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut, promoting a robust immune response, and helping to restore a healthy balance of gut microbiota. It’s particularly effective in treating antibiotic-associated diarrhea, with some studies reporting up to an 80% reduction in symptoms when taken alongside antibiotics.
4. Streptococcus thermophilus
Streptococcus thermophilus is a lactic acid-producing probiotic strain that’s commonly added to dairy products such as yogurt. It’s been shown to support gastrointestinal health, enhance immune function, and improve digestion.
Recent research has also suggested that Streptococcus thermophilus may protect the gut from antibiotic-induced damage by preventing the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and strengthening the intestinal barrier. A study conducted in rats found that taking Streptococcus thermophilus for seven days before and during antibiotic treatment improved gut motility and reduced inflammation caused by antibiotics.
5. Lactobacillus rhamnosus
Lactobacillus rhamnosus is a probiotic species that’s been extensively studied for its beneficial effects on gut health and immunity. It’s been shown to help alleviate digestive issues, including diarrhea, constipation, and bloating, and support the immune system.
Several studies have found that taking Lactobacillus rhamnosus alongside antibiotics can reduce the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea and other digestive side effects. One study also reported that taking Lactobacillus rhamnosus for four weeks after completing a course of antibiotics resulted in a lower incidence of recurrent urinary tract infections in women.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Probiotic Supplement
When it comes to choosing a probiotic supplement to take with antibiotics, there are a few factors to consider:
1. Strain specificity: Different probiotic strains have varying effects on gut health and immunity. Make sure to choose a probiotic supplement that contains strains that have been shown to help with antibiotic-related side effects.
2. CFU count: CFU stands for colony-forming unit, which is a measure of the amount of live bacteria in a probiotic supplement. Look for products with a high CFU count to increase the chances of successful colonization of the gut.
3. Quality and purity: Choose a reputable brand that uses high-quality ingredients and has undergone third-party testing to ensure potency and purity.
4. Dosage and duration: Follow the recommended dosage and duration of taking the probiotic supplement. Some probiotics need to be taken multiple times a day, while others are taken once a day. Be sure to take the supplement for the recommended duration to see the benefits.
Taking probiotics alongside antibiotics can help mitigate the damage they can do to the gut microbiome. The probiotics listed in this article have been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of antibiotic-related diarrhea and other digestive issues, and promoting a healthy balance of gut bacteria. When choosing a probiotic supplement to take with antibiotics, consider strain specificity, CFU count, quality and purity, and dosage and duration. As always, consult with your healthcare practitioner before taking any new supplement to ensure it’s safe and appropriate for your needs.