Research by University College London found that a single course of antibiotics can change the composition of the microbiome for at least a year. But when you do have to take them, there are ways to minimise the damage to your gut microbiome, which is made up of a complex community of trillions of bacteria.
Glenn Gibson, professor of food microbiology at the University of Reading, says it’s “essential” when taking antibiotics to take prebiotics – which provide nutrition for microbes – and probiotics, which are living microbes that can be taken as capsules, pills or in food form.
“They can certainly help resist the negative effects of antibiotics on the gut microbiome. They are routinely given in some countries when antibiotics are prescribed. That should happen here too. I tell anyone I know taking antibiotics to take pre or probiotics too.”
Professor Gibson recommends BiMuno for a prebiotic and Danone Acimel as a probiotic. He believes that people should take them regularly for general good health and does so himself, but if you’re taking antibiotics, he advises taking them, “as a minimum”, during the course and for a week after finishing it.
“They can help with many issues such as gastroenteritis, IBS, transit time, and abdominal discomfort (including gas). Current research is also looking at brain effects and influences on the symptoms of obesity.”