Saturday, 4 October 2014

Benefits of taking probiotics with antibiotics

Source: Flickr
Antibiotics were the discovery of the century. Not only did they give us the ability to finally combat deadly illnesses, but have even helped to prevent the spread of these diseases. In old times, when cholera ran rampant through towns, if a few people were sick, it wasn't too long before the rest of the population became infected.

Nowadays, diseases like this can be treated quickly and effectively, preventing the massive loss of life that occurred in times past. Instead for jumping from person to person, patients are isolated, treated with antibiotics, and sent on their way. However, antibiotics do have side effects, and one of the most troublesome side effect of antibiotics is that they tend to kill off the beneficial bacteria that live in your digestive tract. This is why taking probiotics with antibiotics is so important.

Intestinal flora

There is far more to the human digestive system than meets the eye. Trillions of tiny microorganisms populate the intestines, living inside their human host. In most cases, these organisms are peaceful and help your body digest the foods that you eat. Without good bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifido-bacterium, you wouldn't be able to digest some of the nutrients you eat.

Beneficial bacteria also help to:
  • Break down toxins
  • Deactivate carcinogens
  • Provide vitamin K and other nutrients
  • Modulate the immune system

Source: Flickr

Pathogenic bacteria

Unlike the beneficial bacteria which live in your intestines a more belligerent kind of house guest can make its way into your body. These intruders are anything but peaceful; these are pathogenic bacteria, and they will make you sick. The digestive system is the first line of defense against an attack from a foreign invader like this.

Bacteria defend themselves and will fight to protect their colony and monopolise available resources to their own population. If a foreign pathogen invades the colony, the other bacteria will not allow it to gain a foothold and reproduce. They will attempt to kill off the invader to protect their own colony.

This is one of the primary benefits of the intestinal flora, in that you already have an army ready to fight pathogens that infiltrate your body. In most cases, this is enough to prevent a lot of illnesses you would otherwise easily catch. When you're taking antibiotics however, you destroy bacteria indiscriminately, and this is the problem with antibiotics.

The effect of antibiotics

Source: Flickr
Antibiotics kill or slow the growth of bacteria, but they do so rather indiscriminately. Most antibiotics have broad stream action against a huge variety of bacteria, and this means that the beneficial bacteria in your intestinal flora can be wiped out along with the infection you're trying to fight. Studies have shown that antibiotics can even completely wipe out the natural intestinal flora when they are given to mice.

When antibiotics wipe out your natural intestinal flora, a number of opportunistic bacteria often spring up to take advantage of the situation. It is these bacteria and the loss of beneficial bacteria that cause antibiotic associated diarrhea, and some of these opportunists can be quite dangerous themselves

C. difficile - opportunistic bacteria

C. difficile is one of the more dangerous bacteria that arise following treatment with an antibiotic. This bacteria is an opportunistic pathogen and it will start to colonise your digestive system as soon as the beneficial bacteria are wiped out and can't fight back.

Source: Flickr
Whilst antibiotics easily wipe out your good bacteria, C. difficile is resistant to many types of antibiotics. This is how it can survive antibiotic treatment and take over your intestines, releasing toxins and causing symptoms like fever and diarrhea. In those with a weakened immune system, the infection can kill. This is the primary reason why you should be taking probiotics with antibiotics, as doing so decreases the symptoms and duration of infection, whilst helping to prevent it from occurring in the first place.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are foods or pharmaceutical preparations that contain beneficial bacteria. These bacteria are often the same bacteria found in your intestines naturally, or a similar type of beneficial bacteria that helps your body maintain good health.

Probiotics aren't exactly a new discovery. Yogurt has been produced for thousands of years, ever since prehistoric man began to domesticate wild cattle for milk. Although there was a long time where nobody knew exactly why yogurt was so good for you, they did know that it helped their body digest food properly and remain in optimum health. This is due to the probiotics in yogurt that are alive and thriving in the tub.

Of course, nowadays you have more options than yogurt if you are looking for a good probiotic. Probiotics now come in capsules, drinks, health foods, and desserts, so if you're taking probiotics with antibiotics, you will have plenty of different ways to incorporate the healthy bacteria into your diet.

Taking probiotics with antibiotics

Source: Flickr
You can actually take a regular probiotic on a daily basis and it will benefit your digestion and general health; this is something you may want to consider doing if you suffer from bloating and indigestion. The absolute best time to take probiotics, however, is during treatment with an antibiotic. This is the time that your body really needs its good bacteria to be replenished in order to maintain a healthy intestinal flora and prevent disease. Taking probiotics with antibiotics helps prevent antibiotic associated diarrhea and infections.

To get the most out of your probiotic, take a regular dose of a probiotic supplement, or a good serving of yogurt every day during treatment with antibiotics. You should continue taking probiotics with antibiotics until your course has been completed, and for up to one week after your course is finished, to ensure that good bacteria are able to build back up and return to protecting your body.

Share your experience!

Do you have an experience with probiotics? Have you been taking probiotics with antibiotics? Maybe you take probiotics to aid digestion and support your overall health? Leave a comment and share your story to help spread the word and help other people who may be considering giving probiotics a try

More information

Source: Flickr

  • The rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria
    Antibiotic resistant bacteria are becoming a real problem and if something isn't done to stop them, soon even our strongest antibiotics will no longer work. Find out more about antibiotic resistance, what it is, and how it can be reversed.

  • Nanomedicine - the future of health
    Nanomedicine is the next great advance soon to sweep the medical world off its feet. Find out how nanomedicine is already being used to treat deadly cancers, and what the future could hold.

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