In recent years, doctors have started to prescribe the use of probiotics together with all antibiotics.
But why is it important to take probiotics together with antibiotics?
Meaning of ‘probiotic’
The word ‘antibiotic’ comes from ancient Greek. It literally means something that inhibits growth. The word ‘probiotic’ means the exact opposite – something that encourages growth. So why would any doctor prescribe two such medicines together?
Vital role of probiotics
Many different fungi and bacteria live in your intestines and your colon. In fact, there are an estimated 100 trillion micro-organisms inhabiting a normal bowel. These good bacteria (and yes, many of them are really good for you) are also known as your microbiome. They play a vital role in the following overall body functions:
- Nutrient absorption;
- Mood control;
- The efficient working of the immune system; and
- They also keep harmful micro-organisms in check.
How antibiotics can affect your normal health
Given these vital functions, it isn’t difficult to see why a course of antibiotics (which follows a bit of a scorched earth policy by attacking all bacteria – both good and bad) can leave you feeling tired, lacking in energy and possibly also with diarrhoea. This diarrhoea is so common it has a name: antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, or AAD.
But antibiotics are taken for a reason, namely to kill harmful bacteria, which have caused an infection in your body. Most medications have side effects, though, and antibiotics are no exception. But much of the damage done to your microbiome can be undone by taking a probiotic while you are on antibiotics. This will help to restore the natural balance of the bacteria in your gut.
Additional benefits of probiotics
The good news is that probiotics are also there to treat and prevent certain conditions.
The conditions that can be treated or prevented by probiotics include the following:
- Vaginal infections
- Bladder infections
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Ulcers (caused by the helicobacter pylori bacterium)
- Certain bacterial infections of the digestive tract (such as clostridium difficile)
- Eczema in children
- Crohn’s disease
Probiotics are considered safe and are mostly sold as dietary supplements. You can also get the same benefits from eating certain foods instead of taking tablets. These include yoghurt (with live cultures), sauerkraut, pickles, buttermilk and certain cheeses, such as Gouda, cheddar, mozzarella and cottage cheese. Remember that certain foods, such as sugar and processed and fried foods tend to feed the bad bacteria in your gut.
So make a point of remembering the probiotics next time you are prescribed a course of antibiotics. You will feel the difference.
By Susan Erasmus
(Harvard Health; Gut Microbiota for Health, National Institutes of Health; Mayoclinic.com)
The Content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.