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Updated 22 August 2018

Probiotics and antibiotics

Antibiotics can affect the delicate balance of microorganisms that live in your gastrointestinal system. Taking a probiotic supplement can help.

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The more powerful an antibiotic is in wiping out bacterial infection, the more likely it is to wreak havoc on your delicate balance of intestinal flora.

The most obvious result can be diarrhoea, which occurs in about 10-20% of people who take antibiotics, but there’s also a more hidden impact on the immune system.

The body is forced to battle large numbers of opportunistic infections that thrive as soon as the good bacteria are reduced in numbers. This may be why we so often get a series of infections one after the other, as the immune system doesn’t have the strength to battle invaders.

Many doctors are aware of this process and may prescribe a probiotic. If yours doesn’t, there’s nothing that stops you from asking or simply buying a supplement at the pharmacy.

Overall, there’s good evidence to support the use of Lactobacillus rhamnosus (L. rhamnosus) and Saccharomyces boulardii (S. boulardii) to prevent AAD in adults. Lactobacillus GG (LGG), Lactobacillus sporogens (L. sporogens) or S. boulardii can help to prevent AAD in children.

A probiotic with validated safety data won’t do you any harm if you’re otherwise healthy, even if you take it on a daily basis for the rest of your life. The only drawback is that probiotic supplements can be costly. Consider adding more natural, budget-friendly probiotics to your diet (e.g. yoghurt, kefir, kombucha).

Reviewed by Kim Hofmann, registered dietitian, BSc Medical(Honours) Nutrition and Dietetics, BSc (Honours) Psychology. April 2018.

 
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