The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 50% of antibiotics prescribed to patients are unnecessary. By definition, antibiotics destroy or inhibit bacterial growth. Since 1-3% of the human body consist of microorganisms, it’s time that scientists rethink how antibiotics affect our health. Modern society exposes us to excess antibiotics directly through medicine and indirectly through our food supply. Antibiotics can significantly alter your microbiome, leading to immediate and/or long-term health consequences. Furthermore, excess antibiotic use across population can promote resistance.1
Presently, studies concerning the complex relationship between antibiotics and health reveal that our entire body changes as a result of antibiotic consumption. A topic particularly popular in the scientific community is how taking antibiotics alters the microbiome in your gut, causing dysbiosis. Antibiotics decrease the physical quantity and diversity of the microorganism communities. Once disrupted, the microbiome may take months or even years to recover.2 Often times, recovery of the initial state is near impossible. Antibiotic administration to infants can have an even greater impact as the gut is premature and life long health consequences may be present.3
Altering your gut microbiome increases your susceptibility to infections because of the loss of competition between the microorganisms. It also compromises immune homeostasis and deregulates metabolism, which can lead to inflammatory or autoimmune diseases, obesity, diabetes, and more.1
It’s undeniable that overconsumption of antibiotics poses a real threat to gut health. However, the decision to use antibiotics requires a serious cost-benefit analysis as your current bacterial infection may be critical and demanding immediate attention. Discuss concerns about antibiotic overuse with your healthcare provider to determine if the prescription is absolutely necessary. Make sure to supplement your diet with pre and probiotics during (unless advised otherwise) and after taking antibiotics, and continue to monitor your health.
- Francino, M. P. “Antibiotics and the human gut microbiome: Dysbioses and accumulation of resistances.” Frontiers in microbiology6 (2015).
- Jernberg, Cecilia, et al. “Long-term ecological impacts of antibiotic administration on the human intestinal microbiota.” The ISME journal1.1 (2007): 56-66.
- Tanaka, Shigemitsu, et al. “Influence of antibiotic exposure in the early postnatal period on the development of intestinal microbiota.” FEMS Immunology & Medical Microbiology56.1 (2009): 80-87.