Should You Take Probiotics While On Antibiotics?
Antibiotics have been around for years, and are beneficial for us in many ways. Even though correct usage of antibiotics reduces complications and mortality rates due to infections, over use and abuse of antibiotics has an undesirable effects on our bodies. Resistant bacteria, reduced immunity, yeast colonization, super-infection, and recurrence of diseases such as tuberculosis, indicate the need for a more cautious approach to the use of antibiotics.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria of lactic fermentation (traditionally in yogurt, milk, some cheeses and fermented foods) and several species of yeast. Probiotics are capable of boosting our body’s immunity against infection, generating antimicrobial substances that affect the metabolic system in a positive way by increasing the production of vitamins, improving digestion and lactose absorption. Yogurts or fermented milk products are good sources of probiotics. They are recommended for both children and adults, especially the aged whose lack of probiotic in the micro-flora is normal in old age.
Probiotics vs. Antibiotics
The words ‘probiotics’ and ‘antibiotics’ are Greek, meaning – ‘for life’ and ‘against life’. Antibiotics are ‘against life’ – they suppress and kill both the harmful bacteria and beneficial bacteria, the more ‘broad spectrum’ the antibiotic, the more strains of beneficial bacteria will also be killed. A single course of antibiotics is capable of wiping out positive strains of bacteria for more than six months. Use of antibiotics may cause various problems such as itching, diarrhea and inflammation of the tongue and stomach. They also lead to mal-absorption of the food and medications consumed.
On the other hand, probiotics are ‘for life’ – they help preserve the intestinal bacterial micro-flora and boost natural immunity. Consumption of natural probiotic food such as yoghurts and fermented milk products should be a part of our regular diet. Supplements with the highest probiotic bacteria content are needed only when the bacterial micro-flora is greatly harmed as in case of antibiotics treatment.
A course of high dosage probiotic supplements is highly beneficial during or after antibiotic treatment. Some medical practitioners prescribe probiotics either after finishing an antibiotic course or during the treatment depending on various factors. It is advisable to consult with your doctors before combining antibiotic and probiotic treatment.
Minimize antibiotic use: Discuss the need for antibiotics with your doctor. Nevertheless, once you have started a course of antibiotics, please follow your doctor’s instruction carefully.
Alternative therapy: There are several foods and herbs with natural antibiotic, anti-viral, anti-fungal and immunity boosting properties. For example echinacea, aloe vera, garlic, ginger, schizandra, cayenne and vitamin C, etc. Alternative therapies can often lessen or prevent the need for antibiotic treatment.
Regular use of probiotics: This is very important, especially if you have been taking antibiotic treatment, have recurring fungal infections, or have a frail immune system. Generally foods such as yoghurts and probiotic cheeses are enough, but you can take supplements if necessary.
Guard against and stay away from unsuspected sources of antibiotic exposure: Enhancement of animal feed with antibiotics is an almost regular procedure in the poultry, dairy and livestock industry. A high percentage of dairy products, poultry and meat produced in many countries test positive for antibiotic residue. You may be consuming antibiotics without even knowing it.
Probiotics are definitely a pro-life product and antibiotics though harmful, are necessary to cure many dire ailments that are otherwise untreatable. These include diseases like tuberculosis, malaria and other bacterial infections. Therefore, we cannot completely avoid the use of antibiotics, but they must be used in regulation and under strict medical supervision. It is best to avoid them completely for simple infections and try alternative therapies. In case antibiotic treatment is necessary, it is advisable to increase probiotic intake after undergoing treatment to replenish the beneficial gut bacteria.
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