If you leave your doctor’s office with a prescription for antibiotics, you may feel conflicted. While you want to clear up the infection, you may be concerned about the impact of antibiotics on your gut microbiome. Antibiotics have been hailed as both heroes and villains in the story of modern medicine. They have saved countless lives, but they have also been linked to gut dysbiosis and chronic health conditions resulting from poor gut health. If you are faced with taking antibiotics, taking probiotic supplements can help combat the negative side effects and offer additional health benefits. However, a common question among patients is whether it is pointless to take probiotics and antibiotics together. Recent studies suggest that probiotics and antibiotics actually work in partnership and taking them together can be more effective than taking antibiotics alone.
Numerous studies have shown that taking probiotics and antibiotics together is more beneficial than taking antibiotics alone. One study focused on patients with Helicobacter pylori infections and found that those who took probiotics along with antibiotics had better results compared to those who only took antibiotics. The probiotic strains Lactobacillus acidophilus and Saccharomyces boulardii were found to be the most effective in these studies. Similar findings have been observed in the treatment of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and other gut infections. Patients taking a combination of S. boulardii and an antibiotic had a higher success rate in eradicating SIBO compared to those taking the antibiotic alone. Another study showed that a combination of probiotics and antibiotics normalized glucose breath tests for patients with both SIBO and Crohn’s disease.
Taking probiotics with antibiotics can also help reduce the side effects of antibiotics. Antibiotics work by killing harmful bacteria, but they can also harm beneficial bacteria, leading to dysbiosis. This imbalance in gut bacteria can result in pathogenic infections, a poorly modulated immune system, and inflammation, which can have long-lasting effects. Probiotics have been shown to restore the healthy balance of gut bacteria. A systematic review of 63 trials found that 83% of subjects experienced recovery in their microbiota after taking probiotics. Probiotics have also been effective in preventing and treating antibiotic-associated diarrhea, a common side effect of antibiotic therapy. A meta-analysis of 82 randomized control trials confirmed the effectiveness of probiotics in preventing and treating antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
Probiotics have also shown promise in preventing Clostridium difficile infections, a serious bacterial infection that is difficult to eradicate. A meta-analysis involving 6,851 patients found that probiotics are a useful and safe prevention strategy for C. difficile infections. These findings have led researchers to recommend probiotics for patients taking multiple antibiotics and in hospital settings.
Despite the evidence supporting the benefits of taking probiotics and antibiotics together, there has been some conflicting advice. One study questioned the value of taking probiotics with antibiotics, stating that probiotics were less effective than no treatment at all. However, this study contradicts the overall trend seen in a meta-analysis of 63 studies, which found a significant reduction in antibiotic-associated diarrhea after taking probiotics.
When taking probiotics with antibiotics, it is important to choose a quality probiotic formula. Probiotic manufacturing is not highly regulated, and some supplements may not meet label claims or contain potentially harmful organisms. Research has shown quality issues with commercial probiotics, including low concentration of viable cells and the presence of undesired organisms. By choosing a reputable brand with quality assurance practices, you can ensure that your probiotic supplement is effective and safe.
In terms of timing, some recommendations suggest taking probiotics at least two hours away from antibiotics to reduce any potential die-off. However, if this makes your medication schedule complicated, it is better to take them together than not at all.
In conclusion, taking probiotics and antibiotics together can be more effective than taking antibiotics alone. Probiotics help reduce the side effects of antibiotics and restore a healthy balance of gut bacteria. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of probiotics in preventing and treating antibiotic-associated diarrhea and Clostridium difficile infections. While there has been some conflicting advice, overall research supports taking probiotics with antibiotics. Choosing a quality probiotic formula and taking them as convenient for you will optimize their effects. Taking probiotics with antibiotics is a proactive approach to maintaining gut health and minimizing the negative impact of antibiotics on the gut microbiome.