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What Is the Relationship between Antibiotics and Acidophilus?

By Britt Archer
Updated May 17, 2024
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Antibiotics can cause stomach upset, bloating and diarrhea, especially with clindamycin, which can lead to a chronic form of severe diarrhea and colitis. Antibiotics are very good at killing the bacteria in a person’s body that cause illness, but sometimes they also kill “good” bacteria whose job is to help keep a person healthy. The loss of good bacteria can cause diarrhea. Acidophilus, a type of probiotic, can help lessen the uncomfortable gastrointestinal side effects of antibiotics by promoting the growth of good bacteria. This relationship between antibiotics and acidophilus is generally a positive one for the patient, lessening diarrhea, bloating and stomach upset.

Probiotics like acidophilus can be found in some yogurt products. Some doctors, however, recommend acidophilus in capsule form so their patients can get the full benefit from the antibiotics and acidophilus relationship. Some health experts also have concerns that there aren’t as many acidophilus bacteria in the product as there are supposed to be, and that product may include harmful bacteria as well.

Taking antibiotics and acidophilus is relatively easy, but dosages depend on the specific health problem. Both usually come in tablets and capsules and are easy to swallow, with labels listing exactly how much of the acidophilus bacteria are present. Dosage is easy, with adult patients advised to take one acidophilus capsule before meals, usually three to four times a day. Some recommendations say acidophilus should be taken two hours before eating. Some doctors recommend that a patient continue taking acidophilus capsules for several weeks after the antibiotic therapy has concluded to prevent a recurrence of diarrhea. The combination of antibiotics and acidophilus is considered to be safe for most patients, including young children, but there may be associated problems with flatulence and bloating.

Acidophilus is also known as Lactobacillus acidophilus, or L. acidophilus. Other types of probiotics in the Lactobacillus family include L. casei and L. bulgaricus. Another type, Lactobacillus GG, is considered helpful in the treatment of infectious diarrhea, but not all studies agree. Patients who develop diarrhea while taking antibiotics should inform their physicians, and this is especially recommended for children, who can become dehydrated quickly.

L. acidophilus can be purchased in different forms, in addition to acidophilus-enhanced yogurt and typical over-the-counter capsules. Acidophilus can also be purchased in freeze-dried form as a capsule or powder. Refrigeration of these products is recommended to prevent breakdown.

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