Not only are antibiotics good guys that do many beneficial things for you, including building and maintaining your immune strength and kill off infection-producing culprits, yet they slay good gut-dwelling bacteria that protect you from gastrointestinal distress.
Up to 39% of people who take an infection-fighting antibiotic wind up with diarrhea, a side effect that can be annoying or even downright life-threatening.
Side effects like diarrhea are probably why 20% of people stop taking their antibiotics before they should — and that can be even more dangerous than the initial infection. If some of the disease-causing bacteria have not yet been eliminated so you can get even more sick as they rebound and begin to multiply again.
A new report shows that pairing antibiotics with probiotics (“good” bacteria) cuts the risk of antibiotic side effects. Increase your intake of probiotics (the beneficial bacteria found in your guts and available in supplements and foods like yogurt, tempeh and kefir) can lower your odds of getting diarrhea by 64%. It also can reduce your risk by 66% for illness associated with a dangerous type of tough-to-kill bacteria, clostridium difficile (or C. diff) that shows up in hospitals and afflicts the young and elderly.
Trillions of bacteria are in your digestive system, where they help process the food you eat & play important roles in keeping your immune system strong, your body weight in check and your mood in high spirits. Helpful gut bacteria aid digestion by breaking down sugars called polysaccharides, as well as the amino acids in proteins. Some even make vitamins and act as anti-inflammatory agents, reducing the risk of everything from arthritis to clogged arteries.
There's also evidence that a healthy and well-balanced colony of good and bad bacteria can help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, protect against stomach ulcers, and lower odds for urinary-tract infections. But when you take an antibiotic to clear up or prevent an infection, without probiotics, you land up with fewer good bugs on board and the bad bugs get the upper hand.
Let your doctor know that you plan on taking probiotics with the antibiotic. If he gives you the go-ahead (generally, taking probiotics isn't recommended for people with a compromised immune system), here's a short list on how to keep things balanced:
■ Taking a supplement? Look for “spore form” probiotics. They are tough guys that can withstand a bath in your stomach's super-strong digestive acids. We prefer the spore probiotics that contain bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 and lactobacillus GG, a strain activated by stomach acid.
■ Choose food that has good bacteria. What's best? For preventing or helping to calm antibiotic-associated diarrhea, try Saccharomyces boulardii and a combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei. Other types proven to run “the runs” out of town include Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Lactobacillus reuteri and Lactobacillus acidophilus.
■ Choose yogurt. Not only do probiotic supplements have benefits…. There's evidence that a daily serving of yogurt can cut risk for diarrhea by two-thirds. Make sure your carton says “live active cultures.” Choose plain, nonfat yogurt to avoid loading up on saturated fat and sugar. Add fruit and walnuts for flavor.
Cherish your gut's beneficial bacteria. Specific types of fiber act as prebiotics. They're the favorite food of all those helpful gut bacteria, so when you eat onions, dandelion greens, bananas, asparagus, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, tomatoes, beans, barley, berries, honey, flaxseed, or pectin-containing apples, you're feeding the good guys.
25 July 2013