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Should you take a probiotic alongside your antibiotic ?
More and more people have a healthy respect for antibiotics.
I am not sure it always translates into less use.
But it does mean, when we do use them, “we” like to mitigate the damage they’re doing.
Translated that means we take a probiotic, along side the antibiotic.
Antibiotics KILL indiscriminately
The antibiotic, while killing the organism that is making us sick, also decimates, all the “good” guys, living in our digestive tract. The empty space, allows the “bad” guys to set up shop.
And if this happens, we can be in TROUBLE.
- In the short term, this can mean a case of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. Stats suggest this happens in 5 – 35 % of people, taking an antibiotic.
- In the long term, we can end up with permanently disrupted gut microflora, which puts at risk of a multitude of chronic health problems, including obesity, auto-immune problems and inflammatory bowel disease.
Since NO one wants this………
Probiotics save the day
We swallow a specially formulated bacteria loaded pill and put back, the good guys.
Problem solved. Right !
Not so fast.
This is what a team of researchers from Israel, recently discovered. The team found, probiotics do not turn back the clock and “right” the “wrongs” of the antibiotic.
Quite the opposite.
They actually, prolong the “wrongs” of the antibiotic.
Let me explain what the team observed……….
A time for killing
The team treated 21 healthy human volunteers, with a broad spectrum antibiotic, containing a combination of two antibiotics, ciprofloxacin and metronidazole, for 7 days.
NOTE : This is similar to what you might be prescribed to treat an infection.
Using sophisticated techniques to track, what happened inside the guts, as well as the poop, of these people, the team confirmed……
The antibiotic created a ghost town.
This was the start point of their experiment……
A time for restoring
They wanted to know, what could be done to restore the gut flora, to what it was like, before the antibiotic treatment.
They used three approaches.
- 6 people were given FMT i.e. they received a fecal microbial transplant, of their own poop.
This is a very high tech solution, not currently an option for common mortals, like you and me.
- 8 people were given a premium brand probiotic, containing 11 strains of bacteria and told to consume it, twice a day, for 4 weeks.
They chose a commercially available formulation, which means this is, something a health conscious consumer, could get their hands on, either as a prescription from their doctor or over the counter, at their local pharmacy.
- The remaining 7 people, took nothing.
The scenario that probably plays out most often.
So what happened….
The miracle ‘cure”
Using several different approaches, the team showed the FMT, had everything back to normal within a day or too, shown in dark brown on the figure below.
Probably not a big surprise, but right now, not a practical option………
WE want to know what happened in the case of the DO NOTHING or take probiotics.
Restoring the end goal
Well, the DO NOTHING, actually faired quite well – things were back to normal, within 21 days. The story with the probiotic, was NOT so rosy. At the 21 day mark, things were still off….
The composition, function and bacterial load was different.
In fact, at THE final check up, 5 months later, the gut microbiota, was still ALTERED. i.e. it had NEVER returned to what it was like, before the antibiotic treatment.
EISH ! How could this be ?
Probiotics are SUPPOSED TO BE GOOD !
They’re NOT SWEETS
We’ve somehow been programmed to see them as harmless, but the reality is….
You’re swallowing LIVE bacteria, in rather large quantities.
Okay……………. the large quantities, is probably not always true, but, when you buy a premium brand, you’re buying QUALITY. And part of that QUALITY, is better manufacturing processes.
The point is………….
And they want to stay that way and have lots of ‘’babies” – this is the prime directive.
So they play dirty !
By tracking who was who, in the gut zoo, of the volunteers, the research pieced together….
The probiotic, post-antibiotic story
Under normal circumstances, probiotics battle to move into our guts. More often than not, they’re transient i.e. they pass through. As they pass through, they can be helpful. Sometimes they move in, but it takes special circumstances.
There is just TOO MUCH competition.
But, the antibiotic treatment, gives them a gap.
It REMOVES the competition.
With no competition, they move in, lock stock and barrel and then, they keep competitors in check. But, some of those “competitors” are actually, normal gut residents……… which leaves you, with a permanently ALTERED gut flora.
Good or bad ? It’s hard to say….
But, this study, shows, probiotics do not UNDO, the effects of antibiotics. Doing NOTHING, is more likely to UNDO, the effects of a course of antibiotics.
What should I do ?
I’m not going to say, don’t take a probiotic, alongside an antibiotic, depending on the circumstance, it might be the right thing to do.
But, I do think, we need to adjust our attitude towards them.
They’re “drugs” not “sweets”.
Just because you can buy them without a prescription and manufacturers, proclaim their virtues, does not mean, you should be swallowing them on a routine basis.
Improve you microbial diversity, the way Mother Nature intended……….
Everytime you swallow your probiotic, you send billions of good bacteria into your gut, but these good guys don’t seem to stick around, they just pass through
Probiotics are typically lactic acid producing bacteria, the lactic acid they produce comes in two flavours. L-lactic acid is useful, D-lactic acid is toxic in large quantities.
When a gut bacteria can’t find something fibrous to chew, it will just eat something else. Good for the bacteria, but potentially dangerous for you !