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Antibiotics and Probiotics

Today, we talk probiotics and antibiotics.  Probiotics tend to be a very hot topic but antibiotics isn’t so much in the spotlight.  Sure, we all know what antibiotics are, we’ve probably taken them at some point in our life, and we also know (now, anyway) that they can be overused…although I do think health practitioners are getting better at this. 

But what we don’t really know, or readily think about, is how taking antibiotics affect our intestinal bacteria.  In this blog, I’ll break it down and I’ll give you some tips on what you can do the next time you have to take antibiotics. 

First and foremost, regarding the gut, you will hear a list of words or phrases that all relate to intestinal bacteria.  They are used interchangeably.  Let’s quickly run through them so you are aware of what some of them are.  This is, by no means, an exhaustive list.

Gut flora

Gut bacteria


Gut microbiota

Gut biome


These do not all mean the exact same thing but they all refer to our bacteria in our gut, good or bad. 

Antibiotic is just as the name implies.  It’s anti microbes, specifically bad microbes that cause problems and infection in the body.  When we have these bad microbes, they can make us very sick.  And we NEED antibiotics to help the body rid itself of them. 

Now, some prefer to not take antibiotics for small infections, but rather utilize herbal antibiotics or use herbs that boost the immune system in order to support the body’s natural immune response.  But sometimes, the infection gets too big and herbs can’t handle it so we need antibiotics to come in and rescue us from the critter coursing through our body.

Great question!  Microbes can be both good and bad.  We have good microbes in the body that do things like regulate neurotransmitters (think happy and healthy brain), aid in weight loss, reduce bloating, and boost the immune system…just to name a few. 

An unfortunate side effect of antibiotics is that they kill allllllllll bacteria, even the good ones.  Because of this, people will usually experience diarrhea or bloating.  It’s also important to note when we don’t have a healthy amount of good bacteria, the bad guys can take over and we experience things like candida overgrowth or leaky gut…both are tricky to heal and recover from. 

What can you do to prevent damage to the gut flora?

When you take an antibiotic, it’s important that you work on replenishing the good bacteria to help rebalance the gut.  You can do this a few ways:

Take a course of high dose probiotics immediately after your antibiotics course is completed (short term antibiotics)

If you’re not on a probiotic or eating fermented foods and you end up having to take an antibiotic, I recommend a short, strong course of probiotics followed by a high-quality probiotic. 

Take a clinical grade probiotic during and after your antibiotic course

If you’re on a high-quality probiotic and you have to take an antibiotic, ensure that you separate the two by at least 4 hours.  Some will say 2 hours is good, but if your digestion is on the slower side, you run the risk of losing the good bacteria from the probiotic.  Continue to take your probiotic after your antibiotic course is over as well.

Consume fermented vegetables and other fermented food on a daily basis (before, during, and after antibiotics)

I’m a big fan of consuming fermented vegetables instead of consuming a daily probiotic.  Some people do need the help of a probiotic, especially some specialized support through targeted strains, but most people can get all they need from fermented foods.  If you aren’t eating them, now’s a good time to start!

If you’re interested in reading more about the benefits of pre- and probiotics, read my previous blog here

When’s the last time you took antibiotics?  Did you take the necessary steps to replenish your good bacteria?  Let me know in the comments.

Sunny Brigham, MS, CNS

I'm Sunny! I'm a board-certified clinical nutritionist with an MS in Clinical Nutrition. I help individuals reduce fatigue, eliminate bloat, and lose weight by healing the digestive tract and balancing hormones. I provide individual and group nutrition consultations nationwide. Grab my metabolism boosting guide! http://completehealthsb.com/3-tips-to-boost-your-metabolism/

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