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How can antibiotics and other medications cause digestive problems?

Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Probiotics -- good bacteria -- are meant to inhabit our entire digestive tract at approximately 80:20 ratio with bad bacteria. Outside factors, in addition to what we eat, effect bacteria balance ("Gut Flora"). Antibiotics ("anti" meaning against, and "biotic" meaning bacteria vs. "pro" meaning for or good, "biotic") get rid of the good with the bad so even one dose of antibiotics can upset the desirable ratio of bacteria.

Many of us were given antibiotics frequently as children (ear and throat infections) or as young adults for skin problems. It's very common for me to see a patient for their digestive issues and as we start back asking about their childhood (no it's not mom or dad's fault, it was common medical practice for years), we chart out a path of bacteria imbalance -- antibiotics for ear/throat infections, skin problems treated with more antibiotics and possibly Accutane, then the onset of digestive problems in their mid to late 20's, often times exacerbated by the inclusion of birth control pills and/or poor dietary choices in their late teens and early twenties. Thus, the use of antibiotics as well as some other medications is a big factor in potential bacteria imbalances.
Lisa Ganjhu, DO
Gastroenterology

Antibiotics not only kill bad bacteria but good bacteria, too -- and that’s when bloating and diarrhea move in. In this video, gastroenterologist Dr. Janet Ganjhu discusses ways to deal with digestive problems caused by antibiotics.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.