Do You Need to Strengthen Your Immune System After Taking Antibiotics?

Antibiotics and Your Gut

While your immune system is intact, your gut system may take a hit while taking antibiotics. C. diff infection is a possible side effect of antibiotics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It causes severe diarrhea, can lead to severe colon damage and in some cases can be life- threatening.

Some people wonder if probiotics can help speed that process along. It's possible, Dr. Appenheimer says, but the jury is still out.

"One would think that taking probiotics could prevent this type of secondary infection. However, the data looking at this are mixed, with some showing benefit and others showing no effect," he says.

The Infectious Disease Society of America guidelines state there is insufficient data currently, he adds. "In general, probiotics are felt to be safe, but they are also expensive, and the benefit in preventing C. diff hasn't been definitively proven."

Take Antibiotics Wisely

It's important to note that using too many antibiotics in populations can cause problems over time, namely antibiotic resistance, which occurs when bacteria evolve to outsmart the antibiotics designed to kill them, according to the CDC.

As more bacteria learn how to resist more antibiotics, bacterial infections become more dangerous and harder to treat. Close to 3 million antibiotic- resistant infections occur every year, and they kill more than 35,000 people, according to the CDC.

That's why it's crucial to only take antibiotics as prescribed. "Limit the use of antibiotics to only those situations that are necessary," Dr. Appenheimer says. "Only take antibiotics when prescribed by physicians, and I would avoid pressuring doctors to prescribe antibiotics in situations where they feel they are not warranted."

The CDC and U.S. National Library of Medicine add these tips for the safe use of antibiotics:

  • Remember that antibiotics are only for bacterial infections. Don't ask for an antibiotic to treat a cold.
  • Always follow your doctor's directions and finish your prescription, even if you feel better.
  • Don't save some antibiotics for later or share them with others.

"As always, a well-balanced diet, adequate sleep and limiting stress will help keep you healthy, and that remains the same before, during and after a course of antibiotics," Dr. Appenheimer says.

Read more: 12 Science-Backed Ways to Improve Your Gut Health

Read more on: livestrong