Don’t count on probiotic supplements to reduce the adverse effects of antibiotics, which can wipe out some of the microbiota (bacteria living in the intestines).
It’s claimed that probiotics can help restore the microbiota, but an Israeli study in the journal Cell found that a probiotic supplement (11 strains, including strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium) taken for four weeks after a course of antibiotics actually delayed recolonization of the gut by the participants’ normal array of bacteria for several months, compared to a “watch and wait” group who let their microbiota recover without treatment.
The fastest recovery was seen in a third group who, after the course of antibiotics was finished, were given a transplant of their own fecal microbiota collected before they took the drugs; such transplants are an effective treatment for C. difficile, a bacterial infection that affects many hospitalized patients after they take antibiotics.
Previous studies on the efficacy of probiotics after taking antibiotics have had inconsistent results. While some studies have suggested that probiotics can be effective, the new findings show that “the presumed probiotic-induced protection from antibiotic-associated adverse effects may not be risk-free,” the researchers concluded.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Also see Probiotics Pros and Cons.