So… are you PRO -biotics or ANTI -biotics? Okay, we admit that was a lame science joke… and also a trick question because the answer is… well, you can be both! Despite the contradictory names, these Antibiotics and Probiotics can actually work really well together. “But, how?” you ask. Well, let us explain our good humor with a side of science.
Antibiotics are super important medicines used to battle bacterial infections. To receive the full effects of the medicine, it is imperative that antibiotics are used properly – that is, exactly how instructed by a doctor. When taken correctly, antibiotics can improve health, and even save lives, by killing harmful bacteria or hindering it from reproducing. On the contrary, taking antibiotics incorrectly could harm your health. Not completing a full prescription may cause an infection to return. This often happens when a patient feels better so they stop taking the medicine but not all harmful bacteria have yet to be eliminated. Conversely, consuming antibiotics when you do not actually need them can potentially create a resistance to the medicine, leading to issues down the line when you do need help from antibiotics to beat an infection. In short, when used properly, antibiotics can be key to preserving public health.
It is important to note that not all bacteria are bad. Unlike the harmful bacteria that antibiotics are used to eradicate, some bacteria are very helpful and important to our health. These good bacteria are produced naturally in our bodies and help to support many bodily functions such as digestion, vitamin production and warding off disease.
Enter probiotics. Probiotics are living microorganisms that are considered to be beneficial to our health. They are found in many foods and also come in the form of dietary supplements. Probiotics are thought to be very similar to the good bacteria that our bodies produce naturally. There are many different strains of probiotics, the two most commonly recognized are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. There is still a great deal to be learned about these microorganisms, however many studies show promising results for the effectiveness of probiotics on a variety of health conditions.
The relationship between antibiotics and probiotics comes full circle when we consider that antibiotics not only kill harmful bacteria in the body, but by default they also can kill good bacteria as well. As a result of this elimination of the helpful bacteria, some uncomfortable conditions can occur. One of the most widely reported side effects from antibiotic use is diarrhea. A second unpleasant consequence of antibiotic use, mainly in women, is yeast infections. Now, as you recall – probiotics are very similar to the good bacteria our bodies produce naturally, both in our gut and in the vagina. Therefore, it is logical that using probiotics could help by replacing that good bacteria lost in the battle, and thus possibly relieving some of the rather unfortunate side-effects related to antibiotic use. Now you see why one can be pro-biotics while on anti-biotics, and why this, albeit confusing in lingo, makes great sense in actuality. That being said, let us reiterate that it is always important to follow the directions of your antibiotic prescription, and be sure to check with your doctor if you are interested in using probiotics in tandem or thereafter. Together antibiotics and probiotics make a pretty good team.