Probiotics with Antibiotics? What's the point?
A client of mine recently asked me the following question:
"Janelle, why should I take probiotics while still taking my antibiotics? Won't the antibiotics just kill off all the good guys in the probiotics? Also, how do I take care of my body so it can get balanced and functioning well after my antibiotic treament?"
- Biotic Woman
Hi Biotic Woman…great questions. I want to address probiotics and gut diversity before, during, and after your antibiotic treatment.
You ask a great question which is very logical given the nature of antiobiotics, “Won’t antibiotics kill all the bacteria from the probiotics...what is the point in taking them?”
There are a couple of things to keep in mind here.
First, many probiotics do not colonize (stick around and set up camp)…they are transient (they come in, do their business, and then leave). These transient probiotics will provide benefit during the course of antibiotics by helping to reduce side effects and gut infections. S. boulardii, in particular, is a helpful strain of yeast (not bacteria) that is beneficial to take because antibiotics can’t kill it. S. boulardii (along with the other probiotics like Lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria) will also contribute to lowering the markers for leaky gut following a course of antibiotics.
It is best to take the probiotic as far away from the antibiotic as possible. So, if you take a dose of antibiotics in the morning, then take the probiotics at night before bedtime. If you take antibiotics 3x a day with meals, then take the probiotics around meals.
Next, as far as a healthy gut ecology during and after treatment, consuming prebiotics is very helpful. These prebiotics are going to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics can be found in soluble fiber including tubers, squash, and peeled fruit.
Following antibiotics, one of the biggest challenges is not recovering the amount of flora present…it is actually recovering the diversity. Taking any sort of manufactured probiotic supplement is not going to develop the diverse microbiome that we’ve inherited from our ancestors (a side note here is that multiple rounds of antibiotics…on average up to 30 courses by the age of 40… is leading to the alteration of the human microbiome). Eating fermented foods (kefir, yogurt, kombucha, cultured veg, cultured sour cream, cultured cottage cheese, miso, etc) from a variety of sources will help to develop and cultivate the diverse flora we thrive off of. Including a variety of plant-based foods will also provide the pre-biotics which promote the beneficial bacteria.
Stepping away from probiotics…you also addressed a bigger question as far as proper functioning of the body after antibiotics. Here is where I would look at the original infection/presenting issue that led to the need for antibiotics.
We have areas/systems in our body that may be more susceptible to illness than others. Before the infection expressed itself in you (assuming it wasn’t a trauma of some sort like a car accident needing antibiotics) there were most likely imbalances and low-grade dysfunctions occurring…clues that your body was needing support early on.
Following the antibiotics, you could do detective work by looking at your overall health and dietary habits (Was I eating a nutrient dense diet full of protein, unrefined carbs, and quality fats? Did I have ongoing symptoms of inflammation like headaches, joint pain, bloating, or sinus infections? Was I tired and edgy during the day and feeling shaky before meals? Were my muscles shaking whenever I exerted myself or did I have dry/flaky skin and dandruff?)
Even ongoing low-grade symptoms are clues to imbalances and that the body is not functioning optimally. Long-term imbalances of these low-grade symptoms can lead to wear and tear on the body and lead you to be more susceptible to illness.
To move to a place of functioningboth properly and optimally begin by cleaning up your diet. Eat quality whole foods from a variety of sources. Also, dig deeper so you can determine how each symptom you are experiencing connects to areas of imbalances in the body. You can educate yourself online and reach out to wellness practitioners you love working with, By doing so, the inflammation triggers will be removed and the immune system will be robust. This will make infections less likely and much more manageable without the need for antibiotics.
Did this article speak to you? I'd love to hear your thoughts below. You can also reach out to me if you want to dig deeper to talk about how various symptoms connect to areas of imbalance in your body.