Sometimes, pharmaceutical antibiotics are necessary to eradicate bacterial infections. While most side effects such as diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, etc. aren’t serious, some of the stronger antibiotics do come with a risk of more severe side effects. When taking pharmaceutical antibiotics, here are some things to consider:
- Choose the right type of probiotic. Many people know that probiotics can reduce the side effects associated with antibiotics. What you may not know is that different strains of probiotics treat different conditions, so it’s important to find the right type. With antibiotic-associated diarrhea, studies show that S. boulardii, and L. rhamnosus GG are effective in preventing diarrhea. These particular strains help to stimulate immune factors and suppress the colonization of pathogenic or harmful bacteria which cause diarrhea while taking antibiotics. If you are unsure of which probiotic supplement to take, find a licensed naturopathic doctor or trained practitioner who can help you find the appropriate one most suitable for your needs.
- Prevent organ damage. Strong antibiotics such as aminoglycosides (e.g. gentamicin) can cause ear and kidney damage. A recent study has found that ellagic acid (an antioxidant found in raspberries, blackberries, pomegranates and walnuts) confers protection against kidney damage caused by gentamicin.
- Replenish your vitamins. Long-term use of antibiotics can lower levels of certain vitamins in the body, particularly vitamins D, B2, B9 (folic acid), B12, and biotin. Taking photosensitivity-associated antibiotics (e.g. tetracycline) and hydroxychloroquine (an anti-malarial drug) for a long time has been associated with a reduction in vitamin D levels. Get your vitamin D levels checked (read more about vitamin D here). If you are on a tetracycline antibiotic and want to take a B-complex supplement, take the supplement at a different time of day, away from tetracycline, as B vitamins may interfere with the absorption and effectiveness of tetracycline. As always, talk to your licensed naturopathic doctor if you have questions on drug-supplement interactions.
Are antibiotics absolutely necessary? Are there alternatives? In some cases, antibiotics are needed. In others, there are alternatives. In 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a set of guidelines on how to treat ear infections, recommending that doctors adopt a “wait and see” approach in most cases, and only to prescribe antibiotics if the child’s condition doesn’t improve within 2 days (Click here to read more). For urinary tract infections, antibiotics are not always necessary. In fact, Dr. Yik has seen a number of patients with UTI’s who respond quite well to natural medicines. It is important to talk to your doctor to make sure that you are getting the best form of treatment, with the least amount of unwanted side effects.