Are you about to start a course of antibiotics? Well, don’t forget your probiotics. While the appropriate use of antibiotics does serve a role in fighting off unruly bacterial infections, it can also do a number on your gastrointestinal tract (and vaginal tract for females).
As the public’s familiarity with probiotics increases, thanks to the marketing of such products as Activia yogurt, the advice to supplement with probiotics while on antibiotics isn’t so “alternative” anymore. There is substantial research to support the use of probiotics for the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea, as well as managing inflammatory bowel diseases and allergies (just to name a few of the other uses). This is especially important, since studies have shown that antibiotics are consistently over-prescribed.
What are probiotics?
Simply put, probiotics are the good bacteria that keep potentially bad bacteria and yeast in check. When you take a course of antibiotics, it indiscriminately kills bacteria, including your normal flora of good bacteria. This sets the stage for antibiotic-associated side effects (gas, diarrhea and yeast infections). It can take up to 3 months for your body to reestablish balance after a course of antibiotics. Foods rich in probiotics include yogurt, fermented cheeses, kefir, kombucha and miso. But especially when taking a course of antibiotics, it is difficult to obtain enough probiotics for health benefits from dietary sources alone, since higher doses are required.
Quality probiotic supplements are available in capsules, powders and liquids. I recommend that you support your body with probiotics for at least 2 weeks after your last dose of antibiotics. Remember to separate taking the probiotics from the antibiotic dose by at least 2 hours. Antibiotics will actually kill probiotics if you take them too close together.
And did you know that your gut contains about 60-70% of your immune system cells? So supporting a healthy gut supports a healthy immune system – an added bonus!
Quick tips for selecting a quality probiotics supplement
When shopping for a probiotics supplement, here are some things to look for. Your probiotics supplement should:
• Have several strains of Lactobacillus and/or Bifidobacterium species.
• Be freeze-dried in capsules, not tablets.
• Be in a solid-colored container that provides a dark environment (not clear glass), and that is moisture-proof.
• Ideally have been tested for live bacteria levels at the time of manufacture and at the expiration date.
Also, always keep shelf-stable probiotics in a cool, dry place, and if your product needs refrigeration, be sure it’s in the fridge! If you’re one of those people who forgets to take a supplement if it’s in the refrigerator instead of on your counter, keep that in mind, too. It doesn’t do you any good if you don’t take it!
As always, feel free to ask for recommendations from any of the Village Green staff.
Photo from here, with thanks.