Antibiotics are powerful medications that are essential to help fight off bacterial infections in the body. Sometimes, when taking antibiotics, you may develop symptoms of an upset stomach such as diarrhea, wind and belly pain. Read on to learn why this happens and, most importantly, how you can protect your gut the next time you have to take a course of antibiotics.
Why you sometimes get diarrhea when you are taking antibiotics
Our gut is home to trillions of bacteria (also known as gut microbiota) which are beneficial to the body. Our gut microbiota promotes health by stimulating the immune system, improving the digestion and absorption of nutrients, and by slowing the growth of harmful bacteria. Changes in an individual’s gut microbiota can increase the risk of infections from other opportunistic bacteria naturally present in the intestines.
Antibiotics work by targeting and eliminating certain types of bacteria in the body, thereby ridding the body of bacterial infections. Some antibiotics however, especially the ones that are prescribed to treat common infections, can also wipe out the normal helpful bacteria in our intestines. This disruption in the gut’s delicate ecosystem will lead to an overgrowth of opportunistic bacteria, which can upset the intestinal tract and cause diarrhea.
This ill-effect can manifest from a few hours up to two months after taking the medication, and it affects 5 to 30% of people under treatment.
How to protect your gut health when taking antibiotics
In some cases, the diarrhea can go away on its own once you stop taking the antibiotic. However, this is not the solution as antibiotics are important for the treatment of many illnesses. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria which can help to maintain the balance of bacteria in our intestines.
Taking a probiotic during your course of antibiotics is a good way to keep antibiotic-associated gut health side-effects at bay. These friendly bacteria help to relieve the side effects of the treatment without affecting its efficiency, by simply maintaining the balance of your gut microbiota. Probiotics come in several varieties and can be either found in certain foods or taken as concentrated supplements.
The next time you have to take a course of antibiotics, ask your doctor for advice on which probiotics would best suit your needs for a healthy and balanced gut.