Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Article # 295. Antibiotics vs Probiotics
Antibiotics vs Probiotics: What’s the Difference?
The bacteria on and in your body are estimated to outnumber your own cells by 10-to-1. It’s a radical thought: in terms of overall numbers, you are more bacteria than “you”. That’s because your body is an ecosystem. When everything works correctly, your cells and the bacteria live in harmony and often even work together. And when one system gets out of balance, you may find yourself sick.
This is especially true in your gut, where hundreds of bacterial species reside. Some of these bacteria are bad for you—they can cause diarrhea or upset stomachs when they are too numerous. Others are good for you, helping you breakdown your food into digestible parts and keeping you regular. With all these bacteria in one place, it’s no surprise that your gut (your stomach and intestines) is one of the major focal points of your immune system, which is designed to protect you from infections. In fact, your gut houses more immune cells than just about any other part of your body.
Antiobiotics Kill Bacteria and Can Cause Stomach Problems
When you have a bacterial imbalance in the gut—either because of diet, medicine, illness, or an immune response —you can get digestive problems. For example, when you have an infection and take antibiotics, the antibiotics not only kill the infection, they may kill many different bacteria types in your gut. This can lead to an imbalance, resulting in diarrhea. It’s not surprising then that diarrhea is one of the common side effects of antibiotic treatments—up to 30% of antibiotic treated patients develop diarrhea. It’s a small price to pay to get rid of a potentially nasty infection, but certainly nobody wants to trade in one infection for digestive discomfort.
Probiotics Repopulate the Good Bacteria in Your “Gut”
Probiotics are the opposite of antibiotics. Antibiotics kill bacteria, while probiotics are bacteria. Probiotics help repopulate the good bacteria in the gut—the bacteria that keep you healthy. Probiotics can have several benefits. They can alter the pH (acidity) of the gut to allow or prevent the growth of other types of bacteria. They can directly compete with bad bacteria for nutrients and space, preventing the overgrowth of these bacteria. They can also stimulate the immune system, increasing your ability to defend against any unwanted visitors.