Q: I’ve been prescribed a high dose of antibiotics. I’ve been taking a script for a while now, but they’ve just upped my dose. My doctor said I should think of taking probiotics, but I don’t really know much about them or if they’re any good. I’d appreciate any advice!
A: Probiotics are very important to take when you’re prescribed antibiotics. Antibiotics are very good at what they do- killing bacteria; the problem with antibiotics is that they don’t differentiate between good bacteria and bad. Our body is host to trillions of bacteria, good bacteria which helps with digestion, nutrient absorption, the immune system, as well as preventing yeast overgrowth. It’s important to have enough good bacteria in the body to help to keep our bodies in balance. Frequently people have
digestive side effects like diarrhea after taking antibiotics, which are a direct result of a lack of beneficial bacteria in the body. Also, as we age, the amount of good bacteria naturally present in the body decreases, which makes problems easier to occur.
Fewer amounts of good bacteria also make it easy for yeast to flourish. Yeast overgrowth, also known as Candida, can be a serious problem. Most people think of yeast as only a problem for women, since vaginal yeast ingections are a common result of taking high doses of antibiotics, but untreated Candida can even lead to leaky gut and irritable bowel syndrome, which in turn can lead to other inflammatory and immune related problems.
Probiotics are completely safe to take, and are just supplementing the body’s own stores of good bacteria. Probiotics can be taken while on antibiotics, but they must be taken several hours apart from the antibiotic, or the antibiotic will kill the good bacteria.
Not all probiotics are created equal however, and it’s important to get a high quality supplement that has a high potency. Many grocery store probiotics will have a small amount of bacteria, one billion organisms or less, which sounds like a huge amount, but not when you think that our digestive system alone has over 100 trillion bacteria. If you’ve been on antibiotics, it’s crucial to get a high potency probiotic, to replenish as many of the body’s own good bacteria as possible.
In most cases, I’d recommend taking an enteric coated probiotic, which means the capsule has a special coating to protect the good bacteria from stomach acid, so all of the probiotics get to where they need to be. Non enteric coated probiotics can be effective, but you need to be careful of when to take them, usually on an empty stomach so that digestive juices and stomach acids don’t kill the good stuff.
There are both refrigerated and non refrigerated probiotics. Generally speaking, a refrigerated probiotic is going to be a higher potency that one that is shelf stable, though the company Jarrow has just made a new 25 billion pill in a room temperature formula. Many people prefer to take a room temperature probiotic since it can be easier to remember to take.
Finally, be sure not to take your probiotics with a hot beverage like coffee, since the high heat can hurt the good bacteria. Everyone would benefit from taking probiotics, particularly if you’ve taken antibiotics recently.