Antibiotics and Gut Dysbiosis – What You Need to Know!

microbiome test kit - My Gutcheck
Antibiotics can disrupt the balance of the gut microbiome by killing off beneficial bacteria along with harmful ones Antibiotics are a powerful class of drugs that are commonly used to treat bacterial infections. While they can be lifesaving in certain situations, antibiotics can also have unintended consequences, particularly when it comes to the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome refers to the trillions of microorganisms that live in our digestive tract. These microbes play a critical role in our overall health, influencing everything from our immune system function to our mood and cognitive function1,2. When we take antibiotics, we not only kill off the harmful bacteria that are causing the infection, but we also inadvertently disrupt the delicate balance of the gut microbiome, killing off beneficial bacteria along with the harmful ones3. This disruption can lead to a number of issues, including antibiotic-associated diarrhea, yeast infections, and the overgrowth of harmful bacteria like Clostridium difficile3. Antibiotic usage can also have longer-term consequences, with research suggesting that repeated antibiotic use may be associated with an increased risk of chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders4. While it’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations when it comes to taking antibiotics, there are steps you can take to support your gut health and minimize the impact of these drugs on your microbiome. Here are some tips:
1) Take a probiotic supplement
In relation to antibiotic usage, one of the most fundamental applications for probiotic supplementation is the recovery from gut dysbiosis6. The gut microbiome requires a delicate balance of the differing bacteria present in the ecosystem, but antibiotics can throw this balance into disarray – a condition known as gut dysbiosis. The consequences of gut dysbiosis are vast and include an increased susceptibility to conditions like irritable bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as well as symptoms like bloating and diarrhea7. Ideally, you can identify which particular probiotic that you should supplement with by learning which gut bacteria are depleted or already overly abundant in your gut microbiome. Probiotics are live microorganisms which when consumed, can confer health benefits to the host and/or can help restore the balance of the gut microbiome. While research on the effectiveness of probiotics for preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea is mixed, given the generally safe nature of probiotic supplements, the present evidence suggests that probiotics could be beneficial in some cases of preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea5.
2) Eat a diet rich in prebiotic foods
Prebiotics are types of fiber that feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut, helping to support their growth and diversity6. Foods that are rich in prebiotics include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. While it’s important to avoid certain foods while taking antibiotics, such as those that are high in sugar or refined carbohydrates, incorporating plenty of prebiotic foods into your diet can help support your gut health. In fact, the efficacy of probiotic supplements is largely dependent on the incorporation of a supporting diet of prebiotics6.
3) Avoid unnecessary antibiotic use
One of the best ways to support your gut health is to avoid unnecessary antibiotic use in the first place. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections, and many illnesses are caused by viruses, which antibiotics cannot treat8. If you have a viral infection, such as a cold or flu, antibiotics will not help you feel better and may actually do more harm than good by disrupting your gut microbiome. You should defer to the advice of your healthcare professional for identifying when antibiotics are necessary. In conclusion, antibiotics can have a significant impact on the gut microbiome, disrupting the delicate balance of beneficial bacteria that are essential for our health. While it’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations when it comes to taking antibiotics, there are steps you can take to support your gut health and minimize the impact of these drugs on your microbiome. By taking a probiotic supplement, eating a diet rich in prebiotic foods, and avoiding unnecessary antibiotic use, you can help support your gut health and maintain a healthy microbiome.
  1. Huang, T. T., Lai, J. B., Du, Y. L., Xu, Y., Ruan, L. M., & Hu, S. H. (2019). Current Understanding of Gut Microbiota in Mood Disorders: An Update of Human Studies. Frontiers in genetics10, 98.
  2. Wu, H. J., & Wu, E. (2012). The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity. Gut microbes3(1), 4–14.
  3. Patangia, D. V., Anthony Ryan, C., Dempsey, E., Paul Ross, R., & Stanton, C. (2022). Impact of antibiotics on the human microbiome and consequences for host health. MicrobiologyOpen11(1), e1260.
  4. Queen, J., Zhang, J., & Sears, C. L. (2020). Oral antibiotic use and chronic disease: long-term health impact beyond antimicrobial resistance and Clostridioides difficile. Gut microbes, 11(4), 1092–1103.
  5. Blaabjerg, S., Artzi, D. M., & Aabenhus, R. (2017). Probiotics for the Prevention of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea in Outpatients-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Antibiotics (Basel, Switzerland)6(4), 21.
  6. Gagliardi, A., Totino, V., Cacciotti, F., Iebba, V., Neroni, B., Bonfiglio, G., Trancassini, M., Passariello, C., Pantanella, F., & Schippa, S. (2018). Rebuilding the Gut Microbiota Ecosystem. International journal of environmental research and public health15(8), 1679.
  7. Petersen, C., & Round, J. L. (2014). Defining dysbiosis and its influence on host immunity and disease. Cellular microbiology16(7), 1024–1033.
  8. (1999). Paediatrics & Child Health4(7), 504.