The ONLY Probiotics to Take with Antibiotics
By Joanie Blaxter, founder of Follow Your Gut
First, a note from Kelly: Remember, neither Joanie nor I are health professionals! Use what you read here for your own research and find what is best and right for YOU. Read my entire disclaimer here. Here's Joanie:
Knowing how they can harm our immune system, as much as we'd like to avoid it, there are times we still might need an antibiotic. Today find out the truth about which probiotics to take with antibiotics, BUT you've probably been told never to do that because it cancels out the effects…
Turns out, it's NOT ALWAYS TRUE! There are two probiotics to take with antibiotics that not only CAN be taken at the same time, but they really should be:
The advantages to these antibiotic-resistant, yet health-supporting, microorganisms go far beyond the convenience of being able to take your pills at the same time (antibiotic + probiotic), rather than hours apart…
This category of bacterial strains is not new to the medical world, just new to the U.S. (Read more here: Is My Probiotic Really Helping or am I Wasting Money?)
Physicians in Europe and Asia have routinely written prescriptions since the 60's for this kind of spore bacteria probiotic to soothe the digestive irritation caused by the antibacterial medication. Both the pharmaceutical and the probiotic are taken at the same time with no negative effect on the probiotic or decrease in benefit to the patient.
Then why haven't we seen this more convenient kind of spore probiotic in this country before?
These strains are difficult and expensive to manufacture and so, despite decades of safe and effective use abroad, manufacturers over here for the most part opted to go with the easier and cheaper vegetative strains.
What's a “vegetative” strain?
A vegetative strain is bacteria that lacks any kind of protective spore shell. Currently about 99+% of conventional retail probiotics consist entirely of vegetative strains like the ones you've probably heard of: Lacto, Bifido, Streptococcus, etc.
Conventional probiotic strains…
- Have NO natural, protective shell, and so are delicate and easily killed by medications (including antibiotics), heat, stomach acid, etc. This fragility is why many of these probiotics must be kept in the frig and taken separately from antibiotics. They also…
- Cannot colonize in the oxygen-free environment of the gut. In terms of reproduction, it doesn't matter if vegetative bacteria survive stomach acid or not because all are produced in an environment that contains oxygen (including either a lab or through the fermenting of food). As a result, vegetative strains become genetically altered into aerobic (oxygen-based) versions that CANNOT bind to necessary receptor sites in the intestines and so, cannot colonize the anaerobic (oxygen-free) intestines.
However, during and after antibiotics, hardy gut commensal spore bacteria survive and can guard our microbiome to prevent regrowth of the “bad guys.”
As we know, taking antibiotic medication is comparable to using a flame thrower on our microbiome garden. And luckily, while antibiotics can never kill ALL the bacteria in our gut (think how large and convoluted are your intestines with so many folds and corners), it does leave the population very, very low – good and bad bacteria equally destroyed.
Once we finish a round of antibiotics we are at HUGE RISK for actually becoming sicker than we were before we began the medication.
Post-antibiotic, the beneficial strains in our gut have been so eradicated they can no longer prevent the wildfire regrowth of pathological microbes. So what often takes over like a weed?
- Harmful bacteria, especially the particularly hardy “superbugs,” and
- Candida and other harmful fungi unaffected by antibiotics.
But because the gut commensal spore bacteria survive, they:
- Stand guard over the few remaining beneficial strains, feeding them nutrients to strengthen them, and
- Kill any harmful bacteria that attempt to regrow.
This is the probiotic Kelly and I take. It's designed to take before, during, and after antibiotics, or as ongoing gut protection. All four strains in here are 100% gut commensal spore bacteria.
What kind of probiotic do you have? Just look on the ingredient label:
- A spore (naturally having a shell) bacteria will always start with “Bacillus” followed by the latin name of the strain.
- If the name starts with anything else, it is either a vegetative (no shell, very fragile) bacteria or possibly a probiotic fungi (more on this later).
*Spore bacteria can be either soil-based OR gut commensal:
- Soil-based organisms (S.B.O.) consists of spore bacteria whose natural home is the earth. Dirt is where they find food and reproduce, the end result being increased soil fertility. Similar to vegetative strains, however, soil-based organisms do NOT bind to receptor sites or colonize the human gut and, instead, simply pass through the digestive system in a matter of hours.
- Gut commensal spores only come alive in our gut and are fully able to bind to our receptor sites. This enables them to move slowly through our entire intestinal tract, cleaning it up from beginning to end over 3-4 weeks, before ultimately being excreted out.
If the first word on your probiotic label is Bacillus, but you're not sure if it is a gut commensal or soil-based strain, ask your retailer for help finding the right one or just get it here.
(Pronounced “Sak-roe-my-sees Boo-lar-dee”.)
Fungi are also not killed by antibiotics, but, unlike gut commensal spore bacteria, it's not because they have a protective shell. It's because, by definition, antibiotics kill only bacteria.
Saccharomyces Boulardii, found in live kombucha, is a health-producing fungi. This fungal probiotic is also perfect to take with your antiobiotic as it, too, survives the pharmaceutical chemical and will continue to resist the regrowth of pathological bacteria both during and after the medication protocol.
Beyond surviving antibiotics, though, there's another big plus to taking Saccharomyces Boulardii.
It is one of the few probiotics to have been shown in clinical studies to “fight off” C. diff.
Parents, did you know that taking this probiotic regularly could protect you and your family from unwanted susceptibility?!
Since C. diff. is frequently picked up at medical facilities, those at highest risk include anyone who:
- Is taking a round of antibiotics,
- Visits a doctor's office or medical clinic,
- Resides in a nursing home, and/or
- Has a stay in a hospital.
How taking antibiotics puts us at risk for getting C. Diff.
Beneficial bacteria provide protection by fighting off pathological microbes. When good bacteria get killed by the medication, it leaves us vulnerable to an invasion afterwards by “bad guys.”
That's why when it comes to which probiotics to take with antibiotics, it's so very important to take the right kinds during and after to provide extra protection during that vulnerable window post-medication.
Once the antibiotic is done, how long do you keep taking probiotics?
I would be sure to continue taking both probiotics for at least another month after finishing the medication to give beneficial bacterial residents some solid support in their regrowth period.
And personally, I take both these probiotics daily as part of an ongoing preventative approach because:
- Our immune system depends directly upon these health-promoting strains. In a perfect world, we would consume them many times a day naturally because our food would be exclusively from organic plants grown in healthy soil. Unfortunately, we have so destroyed the soil, sterilized our entire food and agricultural systems, and over-washed our food, we can no longer count on natural plant sources for these critically important gut bacteria. Our most reliable source is currently in supplement form.
- I definitely want as much protection as I can get from deadly superbugs, including C. diff. Because who knows? I may want to pop in to visit Aunt Ethel in the nursing home at a moment's notice without concern.
Luckily, both probiotics are 100% shelf stable so they never need refrigeration, and they travel easily too, so say goodbye to Delhi Belly and Montezuma's Revenge!
3. Which probiotics to take with antibiotics isn't the only important consideration: Also keep eating your fermented foods!
Although the vegetative bacteria strains found in fermented foods and conventional probiotics are unable to colonize in our gut, they DO, however, provide nutrition for the anaerobic bacteria (those can live without oxygen) that reside there permanently.
This is what I imagine happens in our gut when we eat fermented foods…
The anaerobic bacterial residents of our gut are hanging out on the intestinal sidelines, watching their dead aerobic cousins float by on the river of food.
“Oh, I could use that!” says one as he grabs a tool from a microbial passerby to pop into his toolbelt for use later. And all up and down the line you see this happening.
Eewww, I know, right? A bit like grave robbing!
But this IS the basic mechanism for how vegetative probiotics make us feel better. Mostly dead, but genetically similar, these bacteria provide nutritious “chemical messengers” from their biology. Microbiologists describe it more scientifically as a “genetic exchange” between the dead and live bacteria.
So, sure, belly up to that sauerkraut jar or use up that leftover bottle of conventional probiotics!
All three kinds of probiotics (gut commensal spore bacteria, probiotic fungi like Saccharomyces Boulardii, and conventional vegetative strains like lactobacillus or bifidobacterium) complement each other because each does something slightly different in the gut microbiome and so can be taken at the same time.
What else can we do to stay safe? Avoid antibiotics in our food!
Did you know that antibiotics are not only given to sick animals, but they are given to conventionally raised animals to fatten them up more quickly?! (So besides being horrible for our immune system, what else do you think that meat does to our bodies?)
Maryland has become the second U.S. state (after California) to pass a law banning the routine use of antibiotics in healthy livestock and poultry, a move aimed at battling the rise of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as “superbugs…”
The World Health Organization has warned that human infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria pose a grave threat to global health. Such infections are estimated to kill at least 23,000 Americans annually, although a recent Reuters investigation found that many infection-related deaths are uncounted. (Source: Maryland joins California in battling antibiotic overuse on farms)
These are not easy issues and we have a right to make sure our families are safe from accidental exposure to these lethal strains!
The reality is, if California and Maryland can ban the routine use of antibiotics, every state can.
We must stay focused on the real problem – overuse of antibiotics, particularly in factory farms.
Keep yourself and your family as protected as possible:
- Avoid commercially raised meat, eggs and dairy from conventional/factory farms. (If you don't have a local source for safe meat, you could order it here.)
- Eat a variety of fermented foods, and supplement with the two probiotics you've learned about today here and here.
- Test, don't guess! Insist that your doctor test first to confirm that your symptoms are caused from a bacterial infection, NOT a viral infection, before taking a round of antibiotics. (Antibiotics do nothing for viral infections.) And,
- Let your representatives know you want a ban on the routine agricultural use of antibiotics in food.
Have you ever experienced a worsening of health after a round of antibiotics?
While antibiotics absolutely have their place when facing a life-threatening situation, nevertheless I can't tell you how many stories I've heard from people who trace the onset of their current, and much more severe, symptoms back to that round of antibiotics they received for conditions like earache, chest cold or acne.
These new and different symptoms, post-antibiotic, can be almost anything:
- Digestive issues and/or new food sensitivities,
- Hormonal problems,
- Autoimmune/asthma/allergies, etc.,
- Vaginal or reproductive complications,
- Skin aggravations like acne, hives, eczema, psoriasis, etc.
The key to understanding the connection is, did this new level of health challenge appear within 1-12 months after taking antibiotics?
Remember, science is not a criticism! We're all learning together, and what may have seemed like a godsend at the time, may also come with a fairly heavy price later. But thankfully we have some possible solutions in what we now know about which probiotics to take with antibiotics.
So tell us about your experiences and observations concerning antibiotic use, or perhaps what hard choices you've had to make, especially as a parent. Anything you would do differently now? If so, what? What nontoxic approaches have worked for you?
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- Suffering from eczema? I've heard this book, The Eczema Diet, is really good.
Recipes for Homemade Personal Care:
*To avoid all the antibacterial products on the market now, which even the CDC says is dangerous!
- Tons of DIY recipes in one spot
- DIY Organic Beauty Recipes E-Book
- 75 Non-toxic Recipes for Home and Beauty
This is a post by my sweet friend, Joanie Blaxter, a regular writer around here. Joanie is the founder of Follow Your Gut and a health coach who has been in sales and education in the natural foods and products industry since the early 70’s, with six years spent recently as a vitamin specialist in a natural foods store. She is also the Weston Price chapter leader for the Ventura, California area.
Disclaimer reminder: Neither Joanie nor I are health professionals! Use what you read here for your own research and then maybe consult with a natural-minded doctor or health professional you trust to find what is best and right for YOU. Read my entire disclaimer here, and also note that there may be affiliate links in this post.