Antibiotics are a critical part of many medical treatments, but while they save lives, patients also may need to take probiotics to fight off some of the unintended side effects of these life-saving medicines.
Antibiotics go to battle in your body to fight bacteria that is making you sick. They don't work on viruses, but tackle bacterial infections by either killing the bacteria or stopping it from reproducing, the National Institutes of Health explained
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But along with the "bad" bacteria, antibiotics also tend to affect "good" bacteria, which is necessary to almost every function in the body. Hundreds of different kinds of bacteria are found throughout your body, with the most varied being in your gut environment.
"Bacteria that are normally present in our intestines help digest food, destroy disease-causing microorganisms, and produce vitamins," the NIH said
. "Large numbers of microorganisms live on and in our bodies. In fact, microorganisms in the human body outnumber human cells by 10 to 1."
Medical research has repeatedly found that taking probiotics, which contain what many call "good" bacteria, at the same time as antibiotics helps to replenish some of the beneficial bacteria that are killed off as a side effect of taking antibiotics, WebMD said
In order to be effective in fighting against antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD), Medscape said
patients should take the strains of probiotics that have been most-tested in fighting the problem — primarily Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Sacchromyces boulardii.
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Lactobacilli are administered in high doses, the website said. Probiotics are measured in CFUs, or colony forming units, and patients should take 5 billion to 10 billion CFUs a day for children and 10 billion to 20 billion CFUs for adults. For S. boulardi, Medscape said, the dosage is most often 250-1000 mg daily.
Antibiotics inhibit the lactobacilli so take your probiotic at least two hours after the antibiotic, Medscape recommended.
It's important to keep taking probiotics for some time after you stop your antibiotic course; Medscape recommended two to three weeks. In one British study, posted on ScienceDirect
, it was found that patients who took probiotics throughout a seven-day course of antibiotics and continued with the probiotic supplements for seven days after had the most stable intestinal microflora.
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