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Probiotics for gut health: Cautions when choosing right probiotic strains during antibiotic treatment

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Feb 17, 2024 05:07 PM IST

Probiotics are guardians of gut health, help maintain healthy gut microbiome during antibiotic treatment but here are some cautions on choosing right probiotic

Antibiotics play a vital role in treating bacterial infections but their use can disrupt the delicate balance of the gut microbiome, often leading to antibiotic-associated complications. One key strategy to mitigate these effects is the incorporation of probiotics into the treatment plan so, read on as we explain to you the specific role of probiotics in preserving gut health during antibiotic treatment, highlighting their mechanisms of action and potential benefits.

Probiotics for gut health: Cautions when choosing right probiotic strains during antibiotic treatment (Photo by Twitter/CristinaDragani)
Probiotics for gut health: Cautions when choosing right probiotic strains during antibiotic treatment (Photo by Twitter/CristinaDragani)

The Gut Microbiome and Antibiotic Disruption:

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Balakrishna GK, HOD and Senior Consultant - Internal Medicine at Gleneagles Hospital in Bengaluru's Kengeri, shared, “The gut microbiome, a complex ecosystem of microorganisms residing in the digestive tract, plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health. Antibiotics, while essential for eliminating harmful bacteria causing infections, can inadvertently disturb this balance. The indiscriminate nature of antibiotics results in the depletion of both pathogenic and beneficial bacteria, leading to gastrointestinal issues, particularly diarrhea.”

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According to him, probiotics as guardians of gut health because:

1. Restoring Microbial Balance: Probiotics, comprising beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, act as reinforcements during antibiotic treatment. By introducing these live microorganisms into the digestive system, they help restore the microbial balance disrupted by antibiotics.

2. Preventing Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea: Antibiotic use is a common culprit behind diarrhea, affecting up to 30% of individuals undergoing treatment. Probiotics, especially strains like Saccharomyces boulardii, have shown efficacy in preventing and alleviating antibiotic-associated diarrhea by promoting a healthier gut environment.

3. Competing with Pathogens: Probiotics actively compete with pathogenic bacteria for binding sites in the intestinal lining. This competitive exclusion mechanism helps protect the gut from colonization by harmful microbes, reducing the risk of infections.

4. Enhancing Intestinal Barrier Function: Antibiotics can compromise the integrity of the intestinal barrier. Probiotics contribute to maintaining and enhancing this barrier function, preventing the leakage of toxins and harmful substances into the bloodstream.

5. Modulating Immune Response: Probiotics play a role in modulating the immune response in the gut. By promoting a balanced immune system, they contribute to the body's ability to defend against infections and inflammation triggered by antibiotic use.

Choosing the Right Probiotic Strains:

Dr Balakrishna GK revealed, “Not all probiotics are created equal and selecting the right strains is crucial for maximising their benefits during antibiotic treatment. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains, commonly found in yogurt and fermented foods, are often recommended. Additionally, the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii has demonstrated efficacy in preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea.”

Caution and Considerations:

While the benefits of probiotics in preserving gut health during antibiotic treatment are well-established, Dr Balakrishna GK asserted that it is essential to exercise the following cautions -

1. Consultation with Healthcare Providers: Before incorporating probiotics into an antibiotic regimen, individuals should consult with their healthcare providers. This ensures that the chosen probiotic strains align with the specific antibiotic treatment and individual health conditions.

2. Monitoring for Vulnerable Populations: Vulnerable populations, such as those with severe illnesses or compromised immune systems, should be closely monitored when using probiotics during antibiotic treatment to prevent potential adverse effects.

He concluded, “In the delicate dance between antibiotics and gut health, probiotics emerge as valuable allies. Their ability to restore microbial balance, prevent antibiotic-associated complications, and support overall gut function makes them indispensable during antibiotic treatment. By understanding and harnessing the role of probiotics, individuals can take proactive steps to preserve their gut health and minimise the impact of antibiotics on the intricate ecosystem within. As with any health-related decision, consultation with healthcare providers remains paramount to ensure a tailored and effective approach.”

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