- It is safe to take probiotics while you’re also taking antibiotics.
- Probiotics may be most helpful when taken after a course of antibiotics is finished.
- Research shows that probiotics may help relieve or prevent diarrhoea associated with taken antibiotics.
- This article was medically reviewed by David S. Seres, MD, Director of Medical Nutrition and Associate Professor of Medicine,Columbia University Irving Medical Centre.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Yes, you can take probiotics during or after a dose of antibiotics. In fact, some doctors recommend it. Here’s why probiotics can help you get back on track and the best time to take them.
How antibiotics work
If you have a bacterial infection, like strep throat or a UTI, your doctor will likely prescribe you an antibiotic for treatment.
The purpose of the antibiotic is to destroy the harmful bacteria that are making you sick. However, antibiotics don’t know the difference between harmful bacteria and the helpful bacteria in your gut that comprise your microbiome.
Therefore, as they work to make you better, antibiotics can also disrupt both the balance and amount of good bacteria in your gut. Research has shown that certain changes in intestinal bacteria can be associated with a higher risk of diseases like obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, and depression. It is not yet fully clear whether these changes are causal or simply result from the same metabolic predispositions that cause these.
However, it’s safe and often recommended to take probiotics during and after a course of antibiotics, since they can decrease some of the side effects of antibiotics.
“Probiotics are live microorganisms. They are generally safe to consume,” says Rudolph Bedford, MD, a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Centre.
Probiotics can be taken as a supplement or you can get them by consuming fermented foods and drinks like yogurt, kombucha, and kimchi.
The best time to take probiotics: during and after treatment
Bedford recommends that you start taking probiotics the same day as an antibiotic treatment.
While you’re on antibiotics, take those first before the probiotics. Don’t take them at the exact same time because the antibiotics could destroy the bacteria from the probiotic and cancel out any beneficial effects, Bedford says.
“You don’t want the probiotic on board until a couple of hours after the antibiotic itself is taken,” says Bedford.
Moreover, Bedford highly recommends that you continue to take probiotics for two weeks after you’ve completed your antibiotic dose to get your gut microbiome back to normal.
Take probiotics to reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhoea
Diarrhoea is a common side effect of antibiotics. However, preliminary research suggests that taking probiotics may help prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhoea (AAD).
For example, one review of 17 studies found that taking a probiotic may reduce the risk of developing AAD by 51%.
Moreover, some antibiotics can leave you more vulnerable to certain infections, like Clostridium difficile (C. diff). This is a bacterial infection that can cause diarrhoea, an inflamed colon, and, in severe cases death.
However, preliminary research found that taking probiotics may help prevent diarrhoea from C. diff infections, though the correlation was weak. For example, based on a review of 31 studies, researchers report that one case of diarrhoea for every 42 C. diff-infected patients may be prevented from taking probiotics.
As for what type of probiotic to take, one option is a yeast called Saccharomyces boulardii CNCM I-745, sold under the brand name Florastar. This probiotic supplement is used to help prevent and treat diarrhoea.
Those who are immunocompromised may not benefit from probiotics and should discuss other options with a doctor.
Related stories about antibiotics:
- What probiotic should you take when on antibiotics or have GI issues
- Antibiotics can have adverse effects on your immune system
- The difference between bacteria and viruses, and how to prevent their spread
- Insects could be an untapped source of new antibiotic drugs
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