The intestinal flora is damaged by taking many antibiotics, and this damage can last a whole year, a recent Dutch study shows [ ¹ ]. We reveal how you can avoid this.

Antibiotics are highly effective at killing bacteria, that’s what makes them so effective against pathogens. But they don’t just kill harmful bacteria – many helpful bacteria also disappear during an antibiotic treatment.

Experiment with four different antibiotics

The human intestine is populated by millions of microorganisms, most of which are found in the large intestine. Together these microorganisms are called “gut flora . ” The intestinal flora fulfills important tasks that serve to maintain health. For example, it supports the body’s immune system and influences weight.

To find out how long antibiotics damage the gut flora lasted, a research team led by Egija Zaura at the Academic Center for Dentistry in Amsterdam examined 66 healthy adults from Sweden and the United Kingdom [¹].

Study participants took a placebo for a few days or an antibiotic in the generally prescribed amount. Subjects in the antibiotic group received one of four different antibiotics: ciprofloxacin, clindamycin, amoxicillin, or minocycline.

Before therapy, immediately after, and one, two, four, and twelve months later, the scientists took stool and saliva samples from all subjects.

Antibiotics cause long-term harm

In the lab, the researchers used the samples to examine how the study participants’ gut and oral flora changed as a result of antibiotic treatment and how quickly they recovered from these changes.

Most of the  antibiotics caused damage to the intestinal flora  that lasted for several months. In particular, a certain form of bacteria decreased in number and variety. These bacteria produce so-called butyric acid (butyrate), which fights inflammation, inhibits stress, and counteracts the development of cancer.

In the minocycline group, the number of gut bacteria was significantly reduced for up to one month, in the clindamycin group for up to four months, in the ciprofloxacin group for up to twelve months. Amoxicillin had no detectable effect on the diversity of bacteria. The oral flora of all subjects recovered in one week.

How can I rebuild my intestinal flora?

Some foods help build and maintain healthy intestinal flora , such as prunes, plain yogurt, barley, and okra water. Supplements like probiotics are also helpful in restoring intestinal flora. Alcohol and fast food, on the other hand, can damage the intestinal flora, both during and after therapy, with antibiotics it should only be consumed to a limited degree or not at all.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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