If you’ve ever taken antibiotics, you may have wondered whether or not you had to probiotics right after. Regardless if your doctor told you to take them, do you really know everything about the supplements you’re taking…or if they’re even necessary?
Despite the buzz around probiotics, many people don’t exactly know what probiotics are. “Probiotics are part of what is known as our collective ‘microbiome,’ which is the community of bacteria in our gastrointestinal system,” says Dr. Kevin Gebke, family and sports medicine physician at Indiana University Health. Often deemed the “good bacteria,” probiotics include live bacteria and yeasts that keep your gut healthy.
When you take antibiotics, they kill the “bad” and the “good” bacteria in your body, and this can cause a number of antibiotic side effects. Some people experience gastrointestinal side effects such as abdominal pain and diarrhea and women can get vaginal yeast infections. In these cases, taking probiotics with antibiotics can help replenish the amount of “good” bacteria and help maintain the balance of “good” and “bad bacteria.
You can take the probiotics before taking antibiotics or at the same time, says Dr. Gebke. “Patients can potentially avoid these known antibiotic-related complications with preemptive use of a probiotics to minimize the disruption in the body’s intestinal bacteria,” he says.
Of course, it’s always best to consult with your doctor to come up with a plan best for you, but according to Harvard Health Publications, taking probiotics after antibiotics daily for one to two weeks may improve infectious or antibiotic-related diarrhea. However, it’s best to continue to taking probiotics for a few weeks following your antibiotics, as your gut dynamic can continue to shift, according to U.S. News & World Report. Plus, probiotics can have a number of bonus health benefits, including fewer colds and coughs, less stress, and a healthier heart.
In addition to taking supplements, you can also change up your diet to include some naturally probiotic-rich foods. These include yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso, among others. “Eating probiotic-rich food is preferable to taking a supplement,” says Dr. Gebke. “One of the reasons is that many probiotic-rich food are also rich in vitamins and nutrition, which is another important component to overall well-being.”
Additionally, not all probiotic supplements are considered equal, as they are not regulated and don’t always contain everything they say they contain. To make sure you’re getting the best, use a reputable brand. Also, pay attention to how many strains are offered as well as how many live probiotics there are per serving.