One of the most powerful substances you can put into your body are antibiotics.
Used for a wide range of issues, antibiotics are prescribed by doctors to patients who are usually suffering from some form of infection. What these antibiotics do within the body is target bacteria, any at all, and work to wipe them out.
While this usually accomplishes its goal with ease, there is often a large amount of collateral damage done as well. This is a common side effect of something so powerful as an antibiotic.
Today, we will discuss what antibiotics do within the body, and what you can do to not only reverse damage caused by them, but boost their positive effects -- with probiotics.
A brief history of antibiotics
In the early days of medicine, treating infections were a mix bag of whatever was near.
Some histories show that infections were “treated” by having the individual with the infection eat moldy bread, in the hopes that the bad bacteria would cling to the other bad bacteria on the bread and pass out of the system. Other “doctors” of the time would rub moldy bread over the infected wounds of those afflicted.
Needless to say, this level of early “science” did not yield too many positive results.
The question remained, however. “How can we target the infection, destroy it, and minimize damage to the rest of the body?”. The answer came about, surprisingly by accident, by a man named Alexander Fleming back in the early 1920’s.
He was a chemist and bacteriologist who just before leaving for an out of town vacation, left a culture dish with a bacteria sitting inside uncovered. Upon returning to his lab and seeing his “error”, he went to toss out the dish but noticed that a fungus had sprouted upon the center of the dish --and that all the bacteria that had originally been placed in the dish were retreating as far as they could from the sprouting fungus.
That fungus was Penicillium notatum, later shortened to “penicillin”….and the realization on how to fight off infectious bacteria was born.
You may be thinking, “Dr. Dhruv, that’s great and all… but how do probiotics work with antibiotics?”
Great question, and the answer is just below.
What do antibiotics do to the body?
When antibiotics came into the picture in the early 20th century (the term “antibiotics” came into medical use over 30 years later), the idea was to delete all bacteria from the body whenever they got out of hand.
Here we are almost a hundred years later, and we now know more about the intricacies of the human body than we could ever have dreamed of.
We now understand that the body always has bacteria within it, and most of that bacteria is helpful, and absolutely necessary for our bodies to function.
This realization means that antibiotics work more as “atomic bombs” to our bodies that wreak havoc on the delicate balances that make us up. While they do work and often accomplish their goals… they often cause long lists of side effects such as internal discomfort, skin irritations, and often a symptom known as AAD --Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea.
How to use Probiotics to Boost the Power of Antibiotics
Probiotics work in the body, as we mentioned before, as a booster of beneficial bacteria.
Reducing the bad bacteria and providing reinforcements to the good. While the two medical properties may seem to counteract each other (Pro- and Anti-), they both should be combined together to keep your body from getting knocked off balance to the point of sickness.
Antibiotics obliterate the microflora of your body. Any and all bacteria in your system gets ravaged by the powerful antibiotics, leaving your body scrambling to rearrange and reproduce new beneficial bacteria to keep your body running smoothly.
One of the most common reaction that individuals have to antibiotics is AAD. Mentioned above, this kind of diarrhea is a direct result of the beneficial bacteria being obliterated from your system. Your food is slowed down as it is absorbed and passes through your system, and the only thing that is directly absorbed by your gut is the liquid --which passes quickly through you. This can lead to a painful period of time.
When you add in a probiotic, the body is able to continue the average pace of food absorption, ensuring that not only liquid is extracted and absorbed and passed, but all food. This reduces and prevents the frequency of AAD.
Pro or Anti... Why not Both?
When you follow antibiotics with a probiotic, you are creating the opportunity for your gut bacteria to be restarted with a burst of beneficial bacteria. Antibiotics wipe the slate clean, and you rebuild a brand new bacterial community with the optimized ratio of good and bad bacteria.
Taking antibiotics does not have to be a scary experience any more. Ask your primary physician if taking a probiotic is right for your digestive system, as everyone’s gut microflora reacts differently.
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Rodgers, Blake, Kate Kirley, and Anne Mounsey. “Prescribing an Antibiotic? Pair It with Probiotics”. The Journal of Family Practice. 2013.
"Nearly 20% Of Patients Treated With Antibiotics Experience Adverse Side Effects, Study Finds." News Medical Life Sciences. 2017.
Barbut, Frédéric, and Jean Luc Meynard. “Managing Antibiotic Associated Diarrhoea : Probiotics May Help in Prevention.” British Medical Journal. 2002.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with questions regarding a medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read here. This article is for general information only.