Don’t touch that antibiotic until you read this!

Don’t touch that antibiotic
until you read this!

I can’t think of a class of meds more overused than antibiotics. Painkillers maybe. But at least painkillers “only” hurt the person taking them.

Too many antibiotics hurt us all since they lead to the creation of drug-resistant superbugs. And they hurt you by upsetting your gut flora, leading to short-term problems like diarrhea and even long-term chronic illness.

But sometimes, you really do need to take those pills. And if you do, you can slash the risk of side effects by taking a probiotic along with them.

One new analysis of 82 trials finds that probiotics can cut the risk of antibiotic-caused diarrhea by 42 percent. I’m sure plenty of the people in those studies were given worthless or incorrect probiotic strains, so if you find a good one your chances of getting diarrhea will likely be even lower.

Diarrhea might sound like a relatively minor side effect——and for some people that’s all it is. (Even so, why battle the squirts when you don’t have to?) But diarrhea can also be the first and only warning sign of a far more serious and even deadly side effect——infection with the bacteria Clostridium difficile.

You could literally poop yourself to death!

How’s that for an unpleasant way to go?

C. diff, as it’s called, is in plenty of our guts already but it doesn’t make us ill because of all the other good bacteria floating around to keep it in check.

Once you take an antibiotic, all those good bacteria die off. C. diff, on the other hand, is resistant to most drugs——so it not only survives, it thrives.

And this is one microbe you don’t want running wild in your gut.

C. diff caused 336,600 illnesses and 14,000 deaths in 2009 alone, almost entirely among seniors in hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities and almost always after an antibiotic treatment.

The shame of it is, many of those illnesses and deaths may have been prevented with basic probiotic supplements.

In one study, researchers pit the probiotics Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum against a placebo in hospitalized patients given antibiotics.

The same number of patients in both groups tested positive for C. diff——but there were 60 percent fewer cases of diarrhea caused by the bacteria in patients who got the probiotic.

Like I said, your gut can handle C. diff——but only if there’s enough good bacteria to keep it in check.

Don’t stop with L. acidophilus and B. bifidum. The probiotic yeast Saccharomyces boulardii can fight or prevent C. diff infections, and other strains of Lactobacillus——including L. rhamnosus——can fight E. coli, Streptococci spp, C. diff and Salmonella.

Probiotics can also help prevent the permanent change in gut flora that can accompany antibiotic treatments——changes that can cause a whole lot more than upset tummies, including diseases such as MS and mental conditions such as depression.

Since the best offense is a good defense, don’t wait until you’re on an antibiotic to start taking probiotics. Start now, and that bellyful of friendly bacteria can keep illness from striking in the first place.

Don’t waste your time looking for a probiotic in your local supermarket, unless the parking lot is where you meet the farmer who delivers your raw milk——because farm-fresh dairy is the best natural probiotic around.

On the other hand, the stuff you’ll find inside that store——the “probiotics” added to yogurts and drinks, for example——are utterly worthless.

If raw milk isn’t an option where you live, get a proven strain in supplement form from a health food shop or vitamin store.