Should I eat yogurt when taking antibiotics?

Hi, this is Dr. Steve. In this short video I’m going to answer a common question about antibiotics, specifically how to restore your body’s “good bacteria” when taking antibiotics. So if you are on antibiotics, or you know somebody who is, listen up. I got this question just last week. I was meeting with a group of hospital administrators and after the meeting one of them comes up and tells me she’s currently taking antibiotics and heard that she should be eating yogurt as well. She wanted to know if that was true, and what the scientific research says about it. I know you’ve got the same question, so I’ll tell you what I told her.

Are Bacteria Good?

Now, I’m not gonna bore you with all the science: my job is to make things simple for you. So very simply, you’ve got “good bacteria” living in your gut:

  • helping you with digestion,
  • keeping you healthy by fighting “bad bacteria”[1][2],
  • stimulating your immune system[3],
  • making some of your vitamins, and
  • helping your body get rid of some common toxins and poisons.[4]

So these bacteria are good and you want to keep them happy. Because when they’re happy, you’re happy.[5][6]

Are Antibiotics Bad?

So what’s the meanest thing you can do to your good bacteria? Taking antibiotics. Now don’t get me wrong, antibiotics have saved millions of lives and they are probably the primary victory of modern medicine. Bad bacteria can kill you, so your doctor wants to kill them first. That’s certainly understandable.

Antibiotics Kill your Good Bacteria!

But despite all the good that they do, antibiotics can kill all your bacteria, the bad and the good.[7][8] And doctors typically don’t do anything to help your good bacteria grow back. This can cause a number of unpleasant side effects and potential health problems. For example, many people

  • suffer from diarrhea[9][10] and other digestive problems,
  • sometimes certain harmful bacteria grow back first[11], causing infection and inflammation[12][13],
  • it can damage your immune system[14], and
  • can hurt your levels of important vitamins, like biotin, folate and vitamin K. They call these things vitamins for a reason – you need them!

If your doctor tells you that you must take antibiotics then do what your doctor says. However, it’s your responsibility to restore the good bacteria as fast as possible. Luckily you can do this easily with yogurt. Many yogurts have live and active cultures that can benefit your gut[15][16] and will help replenish your good bacteria much faster than if you did nothing.

Which Yogurt Should I Eat?

People often ask me what types of yogurt are best. One problem is that many yogurts are basically just sugar, so try to find plain yogurt with only two ingredients: milk and live cultures – and hopefully no other ingredients. You can add fruit or even a little honey if that’s the only way you’re going to eat it. There’s also types of yogurt called Kefir, and Greek yogurt, and yogurt from cows, sheep, goats or buffalo, it’s all good. And if the ingredients list contains the scientific names of the cultures used, then that’s generally a very good sign. There are some live cultures that are better than others, and perhaps I’ll make a video talking about the different strains of bacteria. But for now, just pick one that you like because you’re the one that will be eating it.

Antibiotics and Yogurt at the Same Time?

Unless your doctor tells you not to eat dairy, start eating the yogurt as soon as you start taking the antibiotics, and continue for 2 weeks after the antibiotics stop. Personally, I love yogurt (especially from goats and sheep) and I eat it all the time. If possible, eat the yogurt at least 4 hours after taking the antibiotics. Try to eat at least 8 ounces (or 1 cup) per day.

There are so many topics related to antibiotics, and dairy, and good bacteria and probiotics, that it’s impossible to cover them all in this one short video, but don’t worry, I’m going to talk about each of them separately in my free newsletter. So sign up at my blog, steveonhealth.com, right now! And remember, don’t assume your doctor is going to tell you this stuff, or even knows about this stuff. Your health is your responsibility. So stay informed!

by - last updated on .

References

  1. S. Rakoff-Nahoum, J. Paglino, F. Eslami-Varzaneh, S. Edberg, and R. Medzhitov, "Recognition of Commensal Microflora by Toll-Like Receptors Is Required for Intestinal Homeostasis", Cell, vol. 118, pp. 229-241, 2004. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2004.07.002
  2. D. Merenstein, M. Murphy, A. Fokar, R.K. Hernandez, H. Park, H. Nsouli, M.E. Sanders, B.A. Davis, V. Niborski, F. Tondu, and N.M. Shara, "Use of a fermented dairy probiotic drink containing Lactobacillus casei (DN-114 001) to decrease the rate of illness in kids: the DRINK study A patient-oriented, double-blind, cluster-randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial", Eur J Clin Nutr, vol. 64, pp. 669-677, 2010. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2010.65
  3. A. Marcos, J. W�rnberg, E. Nova, S. G�mez, A. Alvarez, R. Alvarez, J.A. Mateos, and J.M. Cobo, "The effect of milk fermented by yogurt cultures plus Lactobacillus casei DN-114001 on the immune response of subjects under academic examination stress", European Journal of Nutrition, vol. 43, pp. 381-389, 2004. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00394-004-0517-8
  4. A.M. O'Hara, and F. Shanahan, "The gut flora as a forgotten organ", EMBO Rep, vol. 7, pp. 688-693, 2006. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/sj.embor.7400731
  5. C.L. Sears, "A dynamic partnership: Celebrating our gut flora", Anaerobe, vol. 11, pp. 247-251, 2005. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anaerobe.2005.05.001
  6. A.S. Neish, "Microbes in Gastrointestinal Health and Disease", Gastroenterology, vol. 136, pp. 65-80, 2009. http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2008.10.080
  7. C. Jernberg, S. Lofmark, C. Edlund, and J.K. Jansson, "Long-term impacts of antibiotic exposure on the human intestinal microbiota", Microbiology, vol. 156, pp. 3216-3223, 2010. http://dx.doi.org/10.1099/mic.0.040618-0
  8. L.C.M. Antunes, J. Han, R.B.R. Ferreira, P. Lolic, C.H. Borchers, and B.B. Finlay, "Effect of Antibiotic Treatment on the Intestinal Metabolome", Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, vol. 55, pp. 1494-1503, 2011. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AAC.01664-10
  9. L. Beaugerie, and J. Petit, "Antibiotic-associated diarrhoea", Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology, vol. 18, pp. 337-352, 2004. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bpg.2003.10.002
  10. R.S. Beniwal, V.C. Arena, L. Thomas, S. Narla, T.F. Imperiale, R.A. Chaudhry, and U.A. Ahmad, "", Digestive Diseases and Sciences, vol. 48, pp. 2077-2082, 2003. http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1026155328638
  11. I. Sekirov, N.M. Tam, M. Jogova, M.L. Robertson, Y. Li, C. Lupp, and B.B. Finlay, "Antibiotic-Induced Perturbations of the Intestinal Microbiota Alter Host Susceptibility to Enteric Infection", Infection and Immunity, vol. 76, pp. 4726-4736, 2008. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/IAI.00319-08
  12. F. Guarner, and J. Malagelada, "Role of bacteria in experimental colitis", Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology, vol. 17, pp. 793-804, 2003. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1521-6918(03)00068-4
  13. A.G. Wynne, A.L. McCartney, J. Brostoff, B.N. Hudspith, and G.R. Gibson, "An in vitro assessment of the effects of broad-spectrum antibiotics on the human gut microflora and concomitant isolation of a Lactobacillus plantarum with anti-Candida activities", Anaerobe, vol. 10, pp. 165-169, 2004. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anaerobe.2004.03.002
  14. T. Ichinohe, I.K. Pang, Y. Kumamoto, D.R. Peaper, J.H. Ho, T.S. Murray, and A. Iwasaki, "Microbiota regulates immune defense against respiratory tract influenza A virus infection", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 108, pp. 5354-5359, 2011. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1019378108
  15. S. Parvez, K. Malik, S. Ah Kang, and H. Kim, "Probiotics and their fermented food products are beneficial for health", J Appl Microbiol, vol. 100, pp. 1171-1185, 2006. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2672.2006.02963.x

Comments

  1. Dr. Steve

    Try to find the info on the producer’s website. If it’s not on the product or on the website then assume the worst because they would have used that fact for marketing if it were the case. Generally, if something good is not on the label then you’re pretty safe to assume it’s not there.

    Reply 
  2. Simeon

    Really nice article all of it is trie, but something REALLY important is missing.Yogurt contains a lot of calcium and it is extremely important for some antibiotics (cephalosporins, quinolones, etc.) to avoid any ions (Ca2+ or Zn2+) at least 2-3 hours before or after taking the antibiotic! This is a must because the AB may be directrly excreted from the gut and not be absorb well in the bloodstream.

    Reply 

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