The answer to this question is a resounding YES – ProVen Probiotics can be taken both alongside and following a course of antibiotics.
Our amazing microbiome
Our microbiome consists of 100 trillion microbes, which include bacteria, fungi and viruses that all work together with our body to help us remain in equilibrium and balance (known as homeostasis). These are known as our ‘commensal’ microbes, which means that they live with us, and we provide them with food and other benefits, in return for them doing us no harm and potentially providing key benefits in return. We now know that these microbes, viruses and fungi are fundamental to our survival and without them, we would not survive for longer than a couple of years.
They are part of us and perform a variety of key functions in our body, including:
- the metabolism of key vitamins, including vitamin K and vitamins B1, B2 and B12
- synthesis (break down) of amino acids (the individual molecules of protein foods)
- the gut bacteria use carbohydrates that are non-digestible by humans to feed and produce energy both for us and for their own proliferation
- they form part of our immune system, continuously interacting with it from the moment we are born and forming a key part of our gut-mucosal immune system
- they form part of our gut-brain axis (the communication system between our gut and brain)
Along with the mucous that lines the walls of our intestines, our gut bacteria help to prevent pathogens from entering into our bloodstream from the outside environment, as anything that we ingest has the potential to pass into our bloodstream.
If our body, and in particular our gut, is healthy, we are able to fight off pathogenic external viruses, fungi or bacteria, stopping them from entering our bloodstream and excreting them in urine or stool.
If our gut is not working optimally however, a particular pathogen may overwhelm our natural defenses and we may succumb to an infection. This can be linked to a specific event such as food poisoning or other bacterial infection and is affected by poor diet, stress, ageing and medications, including antibiotics. Ironically, antibiotics are one of the key treatments for an infection.
The effect of antibiotics
Antibiotics work by slowing down growth or killing bacterial colonies. When a bacterial infection has been correctly identified and diagnosed, a health practitioner may prescribe an antibiotic that specifically targets that particular bacteria. Often however, ‘broad spectrum’ antibiotics are prescribed as the specific bacteria has not been identified. These will work to destroy any bacteria they come across.
When an infection is potentially life threatening, such as meningitis, antibiotics are administered intravenously to be able to act as quickly as possible, bypassing the digestive system and being absorbed directly into the bloodstream. For less severe infections, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) or bacterial vaginosis (BV), antibiotics are administered orally. Bacterial skin infections are often treated with topical antibiotics, which are applied directly at the point of visible infection.
Broad spectrum antibiotics are often taken orally and must be broken down (digested) in our gastrointestinal tract before being absorbed into our bloodstream to travel throughout the body destroying ALL bacteria in their path, including the commensal bacteria in our microbiome.
Side effects of antibiotics
As a result of this ability to kill all bacteria, antibiotics can cause a number of undesirable side effects. These mainly impact the gut and include diarrhoea, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, stomach cramps and fungal infection, such as Candida albicans (thrush). They may also include fatigue and allergic reactions.
By killing all kinds of bacteria, the antibiotics upset the normal balance of bacteria in our gut, reducing the diversity of bacteria and in some cases allowing pathogenic bacteria to seize the opportunity to over-grow and cause an imbalance, known as dysbiosis. It is this imbalance and the extent to which the antibiotics impact the make-up of our individual microbiome that may lead to longer-term effects for some individuals.
Reducing the side effects of antibiotics
Taking friendly bacteria alongside and following antibiotics may help to retain a balance of bacteria in the intestines and thus help to reduce the above side effects. Friendly bacteria can be taken in both food and supplement form and we recommend the following:
- eat a variety of bacteria-containing foods, such as sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, live plain yoghurt and kefir to ensure you are ingesting a wide range of different bacterial strains
- include prebiotic foods, such as onions, leeks, garlic, unripe bananas and fibrous vegetables, to feed the friendly bacteria and help them to continue to multiply
- reduce intake of all forms of sugar and processed foods as these feed the pathogenic strains of bacteria
- choose a research-backed multi-strain friendly bacteria supplement – with research specifically relating to use alongside antibiotics
- look for a high-strength supplement that contains commensal bacteria strains that are naturally present in the human gut
- always take a supplement at least two hours away from (both before and after) a dose of antibiotics to help ensure the survival of the friendly bacteria
- continue to take the supplement for at least a week after completing the course of antibiotics to help support the ‘reset’ of your microbiome
Want to know more?
ProVen Probiotics aim to provide the best support for both you and your health. If you wish to know more about gut health please do not hesitate to call us on 01639 825107 or alternatively, learn more via our blogs or in-depth ProVen research.
ProVen Probiotics, Unit 2 Christchurch Road, Baglan Industrial Park, Port Talbot, SA12 7DJ. Tel: 01639 825107