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 of 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).
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 it is difficult to obtain enough probiotics for health benefits from dietary sources alone, since high-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 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! Here are some quick tips to help you select a quality probiotics supplement:
• Should have several strains of Lactobacillus and/or Bifidobacterium species
• Should be stocked in the refrigerator, even if it is stable at room temperature
• Should be freeze-dried in capsules, not tablets
• Capsules should be enteric coated, so they will open in your intestines
• Container should be dark and moisture-proof
• Ideally the product should have been tested for live bacteria levels at the time of manufacture and at the expiration date (this will be noted on the label)
As always, feel free to ask for recommendations from any of the Village Green staff.