May 26, 2022

Antibiotics Can Kill Healthy Gut Bacteria

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Experts say that certain antibiotics, including tetracyclines and macrolides, can kill healthy gut bacteria. RECVISUAL / Getty Images
  • Researchers say that certain antibiotics, including commonly prescribed tetracyclines and macrolides, can kill healthy gut bacteria during use.
  • They said the lack of healthy gut bacteria can lead to gastrointestinal upset and recurrent infections.
  • Experts say people taking antibiotics should eat foods rich in probiotics, such as yogurt and sauerkraut, while using the drugs.

The roughly 40 trillion microbes that live in our bodies, most of which are found in our gut, can impact everything from how we digest our food to how we defend ourselves against external threats such as viruses, parasites and bacteria.

Microbes create a gentle balance that can be upset by a variety of medical treatments, especially antibiotics.

The discovery of antibiotic drugs marked a new future for humans, including making things like dental surgery possible and survivable.

They remain powerful tools, even if their use is not without side effects. This can include unintentionally killing the good bacteria in our gut.

New research adds to the growing pile of information about the importance of our microbiome and how common antibiotics can kill some helpful gut bacteria, highlighting the importance of mitigating potential unwanted side effects while a person is taking antibiotics.

In a recent study published in the journal Nature, an international research team based mainly in Germany examined the impact of 144 antibiotics commonly used in humans on our gut health.

More importantly, they found that two classes of antibiotics – tetracyclines and macrolides – create “collateral damage” by eliminating good bacteria in the gut, leaving it open to gastrointestinal ailments and recurrent infections of the gut. a type of bacteria known as Clostridioides difficile (C. diff), which can cause severe diarrhea, nausea, fever, stomach pain and even death.

Tetracyclines are a type of broad spectrum antibiotics. There are five types of macrolides: erythromycin, clarithromycin, azithromycin, fidaxomicin, and telithromycin. They are used to treat a variety of common infections, from acne to sexually transmitted infections.

The researchers found that tetracyclines and macrolides not only stopped good bacteria from growing, but caused the death of about half of the strains of microbes found in the gut that the researchers had tested.

“Many antibiotics inhibit the growth of various pathogenic bacteria. This broad spectrum of activity is useful for treating infections, but it increases the risk that microbes in our gut will also be targeted, ”Lisa Maier, DFG, Emmy Noether Group Leader at the University of Tübingen in Germany and the one of the two lead authors of the study, said in a statement accompanying the research.

Camille Goemans, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tübingen and another lead author of the study, said researchers did not expect this kind of impact from tetracyclines and macrolides because they were thought to kill not bacteria.

“Our experiments show that this hypothesis is not true for about half of the gut microbes we have studied,” she said.

The researchers did not recommend that doctors stop prescribing these kinds of antibiotics, but instead explored some undisclosed drug therapies that might lessen the effects as “antidotes.”

Researchers say they have tested some of these drugs on mice, and while early results are promising, more research is needed. (It should be noted that the research was funded in part by a grant from the European Laboratory for Molecular Biology, which filed a patent on the use of the methods identified in the study to prevent and / or treat dysbiosis – or disruption of gut microbes – and “for the protection of the microbiome.”)

In the meantime, health experts say there are other ways to help your gut bacteria stay abundant and healthy while you’re being treated with antibiotics.

A commonly recommended method is to eat yogurt and other foods rich in probiotics.

Becky Bell, MS, RDN, LN, Registered Dietitian at Rooted Nutrition Therapies, recommends that her clients supplement their diets with certain strains of bacteria while on antibiotic therapy. Including Lactobacillus acidophilus, which can be found in many common yogurts.

“There is no way around the fact that antibiotics kill both harmful and beneficial bacteria in the gut,” Bell told Healthline. “It is extremely important to focus on nutrition and rebuilding the gut after antibiotic treatment by eating a wide variety of foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics.”

However, each person’s gut biome is unique and changes throughout their life, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to keeping them healthy.

Nonetheless, some experts say that obtaining probiotics from food while on antibiotic treatments is the best way to go.

Dr Andrea Paul, medical advisor at nutritional supplement company Illuminate Labs, says fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, and tempeh contain probiotics and are cheaper than buying probiotic supplements.

She recommends that her patients start slowly with a small serving of foods rich in probiotics during antibiotic treatment to make sure their stomachs can tolerate it.

“Sometimes this can create a bit of digestive discomfort, so it’s up to the patient to determine their level of tolerance, but many patients feel better when they consume fermented foods during antibiotic treatment,” he said. she declared.