Most people have likely had an illness that has required a course of antibiotics. While antibiotics are effective for curing bacterial infections, in the process, they may also reduce the numbers of beneficial bacteria on your skin and in your gut, your individual “microbiome.” When beneficial bacteria are reduced in and on your body, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Malabsorption
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Resistant skin infections
  • Yeast infections

and others. As research into the microbiome advances, many effects on the body’s metabolism (both good and bad and some quite unexpected) have been discovered. However, the total effect of these changes on human health are not 100% clear at this point.

While everyone should avoid the unnecessary use of antibiotics, odds are you will require antibiotics at some time in your life. How can you balance the bacteria in your body if you require an antibiotic? Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that typical microbes that populate the normal human digestive system. These bacteria live in the intestines and help your body to digest and absorb nutrients. These beneficial bacteria also support your immune system. If you are taking an antibiotic, your doctor will often recommend introducing or increasing your probiotic ingestion to help your body regain your normal bacterial flora.

Probiotics can be found in non-pasteurized or fortified cultured dairy products and other fermented foods; however, they may not contain great enough numbers of bacteria or diversity of species to replace those lost due to the antibiotics. When paired with antibiotics, probiotics should be taken twice a day within at least two hours before or after taking the antibiotic. When choosing a probiotic supplement, pay close attention to the number of live organisms per dose, the number of different species, and whether the manufacturer takes steps to ensure the probiotic bacteria survive the packaging and delivery.

If you would like to learn more about the use of probiotics, check out the Mayo Clinic’s website.