Probiotics and Antibiotics: How Do They Work Together?
  /   Dr. John Snow

Probiotics and Antibiotics: How Do They Work Together?

Probiotics and antibiotics perform a balancing act in your gut. Antibiotics have an important job to do, and they're sometimes absolutely necessary. There's a little bit of bad that comes with the good, and antibiotics can have side effects that upset the natural balance of your gut. Probiotics may be a valuable solution. They're good bacteria that your gut needs to thrive, and they can help your body recover after taking antibiotics.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that can have beneficial effects on your digestive tract. They're live bacteria, but they aren't harmful bacteria.

Common probiotic strains that can be found in probiotic supplements include:

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Saccharomyces boulardii
  • Bifidobacterium

The gastrointestinal tract contains approximately three to five pounds of microbiota that are necessary for the body's functions. Your body needs specific strains of bacteria to help break down food in the digestive tract, and probiotics are the kind of bacteria that promote that process. 

The type of bacteria found in the digestive tract determines your overall gut health. You need more good gut bacteria than harmful bacteria for your digestive tract to function the way it's supposed to. Studies have found that probiotics can help manage conditions that affect the digestive tract or occur in the digestive tract, like diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. 

Probiotics that help maintain this balance of bacteria in your gut microbiome can be taken as supplements. These microbes also occur naturally in foods like dairy yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, pickles, kombucha, and kimchi. Any cultured or fermented food will contain beneficial bacteria.

Probiotics are generally safe for daily use, and they’re necessary for gut function. Your body needs beneficial bacteria to protect the gut and immune system and even to support mental health. Good gut microbiota play a very important role in many systems throughout your body, and you can’t afford to go without them.

Some people are able to get enough probiotic bacteria to support a healthy gut flora balance through their normal diet. Other people find that using a probiotic supplement is a better choice. These supplements are most helpful for picky eaters, like children who may be averse to the sour or tangy flavors of fermented foods. 

What Are Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are medications that kill bacteria and fungi. If someone in your family has a bacterial or fungal infection (like a yeast infection), your family doctor or pediatrician will prescribe a type of antibiotic therapy that’s demonstrated to destroy the type of bacteria or fungus causing the illness. Antibiotic treatment can help the body eliminate bad bacteria. When the source of the illness is destroyed, the body can recover. 

Even though antibiotics are usually targeted to specific bacteria, they cannot be specifically told what to do. They’ll kill all kinds of bacteria, including the bacteria your body needs to stay healthy. It’s a double-edged sword. You want to get rid of the bacteria making you sick, but getting rid of the bacteria that work to keep you healthy often causes side effects like diarrhea. 

Antibiotic-associated diarrhea is one of the most common side effects people experience when they use antibiotics. It’s usually not dangerous, but it can be severe in children. Children naturally have less fluid in their bodies. If they’re losing fluids through diarrhea, it’s important to keep them hydrated and work to resolve their digestive upset.

In addition to diarrhea, antibiotics can cause an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. This can lead to a bacterial infection known as C. difficile (often referred to as C. diff). A Clostridium difficile infection can become severe enough to require hospitalization. If your child is experiencing significant tummy trouble or pain, you need to call your pediatrician immediately. 

How Do Probiotics Help Your Body After Antibiotics?

Many people experience diarrhea after taking antibiotics because the good bacteria in their digestive tracts have been wiped out. The body doesn’t make a significant amount of healthy bacteria on its own. It’s counting on you to introduce them into your gut through ingestion. You need to eat probiotic foods or take probiotic supplements to promote higher levels of good bacteria in your gut. 

Probiotics can work to replace what your body has lost. Daily probiotic use for several weeks can help your body accumulate all the beneficial bacteria it needs to carry out the digestive process and promote overall wellness. When the antibiotics are out of your system, your digestive system will return to the way it was before you began antibiotic treatment. 

Can You Use Probiotics and Antibiotics at the Same Time?

Probiotics are beneficial for intestinal health after you take antibiotics, but they can also make antibiotics work better while you're taking them. In one study, the use of probiotics during antibiotic treatment correlated to an increase in the eradication rate of a bacteria infection by 10%.

Healthcare professionals are increasingly suggesting that patients who take antibiotics also take certain types of probiotics at the same time. It seems to effectively minimize the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) for many patients. 

You should always consult your family doctor before using probiotics and antibiotics at the same time. Your doctor understands your health and condition better than anyone else, and their advice should always come first. 

It’s also worth noting that the average course of antibiotic treatment only lasts around a week to two weeks. It can take probiotics as long as 21 days to begin showing their health benefits. You might not notice a dramatic change in how your gut works when taking antibiotics and probiotics simultaneously, especially for the first few weeks. 

The probiotics can work in the background to mitigate some of the negative gut health effects of the antibiotics, but you won’t see the true benefits until the probiotics have had enough time to colonize your gut. If you’re looking to improve your gut health in the long term, you’ll need to continue taking probiotics.

How Long Should You Use Probiotics?

If you’re using probiotics simply to counteract the adverse effects of antibiotics, you can stop taking them after a month or so. When you do, your gut health will return to the way it was before you took your antibiotics. If you had a naturally healthy gut before antibiotic use, you’ll likely have the same healthy gut you did before. 

If you’re using probiotics to promote general digestive health, you generally need to take them continuously. The bacteria in probiotics won’t replicate enough to colonize your gut. They’ll eventually be expelled by your body, and they’ll need to be replaced. Unless you change your diet to incorporate a lot of probiotic foods, you’ll need to keep taking probiotics to experience the benefits.

What Should I Know About Prebiotics?

Bacteria are living microorganisms. Like all other living things, they need a source of energy to survive. Probiotics like to eat fiber from plant-based foods. This fiber, often called prebiotic fiber, is an ideal meal for good gut bacteria. They’ll eat the fiber and get energized, making it easier for them to get to work restoring the bacterial balance of your gut microbiome.

Many probiotic supplements also include some prebiotic fiber to give your probiotics a good head start, but it’s a good idea to give them additional energy with high-fiber plant-based foods. Foods like beans, chickpeas, lentils, asparagus, mushrooms, apples, wheat, and oats contain plenty of plant fiber to support good gut bacteria. 

How Does Diet Factor in?

Probiotics can be a valuable tool for promoting gut health, but they won’t undo the negative effects of an unhealthy diet. You may still experience constipation, diarrhea, and bloating as a result of a poor diet, even if you’re currently using probiotic supplements.

If your family isn’t eating enough whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and grains, it’s difficult for the digestive tract to function properly. Processed food is often nutritionally insufficient, and your body needs vitamins and minerals to function properly. Gut health always begins at the family table. Make mindful choices about the meals you serve to support your family’s health.

Finding a Healthy Gut Balance With Hiya

Hiya’s children’s chewable probiotic is a daily probiotic supplement with 10 billion live, active beneficial bacteria in every dose. We’ve added prebiotic fiber into the blend to jumpstart the healthy bacteria.

Unlike many children’s supplements, Hiya doesn’t contain any artificial colors, artificial flavors, sugar, or gummy junk. Our probiotics are vegan, non-GMO, gluten-free, and made in the USA. You can feel good about giving your children Hiya, and their tummies will feel good when they use it. 


Antibiotics: Side Effects, What Is It & Usage | Cleveland Clinic

Prescribing an antibiotic? Pair it with probiotics | National Library of Medicine

Human gut microbiome: hopes, threats and promises | BMJ Journal