Assorted anti-biotics, pills, and pharmaceuticals

Should you take probiotics after anti-biotics ?

It’s a commonly held belief, including among health professionals, that you should.

But in a recent study, probiotics significantly delayed the return a healthy gut microbiome after taking anti-biotics.

Huh. What gives?

After the initial surprise, and thinking about this further, it actually makes sense..

We can think of the gut microbiome as an eco-system, with antibiotics causing a mass extinction.

After a mass extinction, the probiotic may be filling the gap in the eco-system at the expense of our existing microbiota. Without the probiotic, our existing microbiota may return to its original state quicker as it doesn’t have to compete with the probiotic.

While this is just one study and needs to be replicated by others (that’s just good science), it does call in to doubt the recommendation for all people to take probiotics after anti-biotics. Sometimes, we just need to let go of widely accepted beliefs when the evidence indicates that they are not valid anymore!

The study was also conducted in healthy adults, so these results can’t necessarily be extrapolated to children, the elderly, or those with gut pathologies. It may still be a good idea to take probiotics in high-risk people, who are at risk of parasites, diarrhea, or the dangerous Clostridium difficile. In these people, taking pro-biotics after anti-biotics may still be the best option to prevent overgrowth by unwanted types of bacteria or parasites.

So are probiotics useless?

Certainly not!

It must be remembered that this study only shows the effect of taking probiotics after a course of anti-biotics.

It does not mean probiotics are useless in all situations as some popular media’s headlines have stated following this study.

Probiotics generally have been found to reduce inflammation, improve leaky gut (intestinal permeability), mood, skin and digestive conditions and improve liver function for example.

Here’s an interesting article from Chris Kresser’s team on this