Scientists have found evidence supporting what many patients already suspected: antibiotics can disturb the ecology of the gut. A study of the bacterial populations in three women given ciprofloxacin showed that the beneficial bacteria in their digestive tracts were wiped out.

The effect occurred quickly and it took a long time before a normal balance of bacteria was restored. The scientists suggest that this disruption may be more profound and long-lasting than previously imagined. They urged doctors to exercise restraint in prescribing these powerful drugs.

[Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, online, Sept. 13, 2010]

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  1. Faith

    My doctor had me on clindamycin for three weeks, he also had me on mega probiotics and the floraster, saccharomyces boulardii, theralac, and a pharmacy grade probiotic. I also drank kefir lactose free. I was fine, afterwards, My doctor is rockstar,
    Anyhow, it takes sometimes months to get your gut flora back to normal there has to be a better way to cure people rather than give them antibiotics, to destroy the flora which is there for our immunity which is there for their protection.

  2. Stephie G

    I had a couple of rounds of cipro for 3 separate urinary tract infections this year. My last round was in late July and I’ve had such stomach issues since. I went to a gastro and he gave me an endoscopy and told me he believed the problem was caused by the cipro. All of my tests came back negative but he did diagnose me with GERD. I’ve already lost around 30 pounds and I find it hard to eat anything. Even food that is binding still causes diarrhea.
    I am in digestive hell and I don’t know what to do anymore. I started taking Bentyl, a stomach relaxer, and it helped somewhat but just for a little while. I also try to take a probiotic everyday. How much longer will this last? My stomach makes all kinds of crazy noises no matter what I eat and there is no rhyme or reason to single out any specific catalyst. Rice won’t bother me one day but the next time I eat it I feel really sick. The nausea is unbearable.
    So many people believe this is all stress related. I just wish I had some answers to make sense of this…and some words of encouragement and perhaps a time frame for when this will finally be over.

  3. DJB

    The comments above are like mine. I had a tooth extracted on Friday & they prescribed anti-biotics & pain-killers [which I haven’t taken for 20 years.] On Mon. morning I felt ill with nausea, bloated gut, aches & pains which have got worse even though I stopped taking them [I was about half-way through the course] This morning [Tues.] I’ve been spewing-up some horrible stuff inc. antibiotic [horrible taste]. I got some Alka Seltsa which has eased the nausea, tiredness, gut-ache a bit but I’m not eating till it goes. The pills seem to have almost killed me; the very thing they are meant to prevent! Crazy World.

  4. Dg

    Wow, such a similar story to ours. My mother in law was 92, still able to live at home alone. She fell, life alert necklace called 911. Taken to the hospital, Catheter.. Subsequent MRSA contracted, Heavy vancomycin, transferred to REHAB, more Vanco, C. Diff overtook her intestines and she suffered for 2 weeks, went into a painful stupor, nurses said it was her “time”! Body was shutting down.
    BULL CRAP! Rushed to emergency, went on life support and the C. Diff and uncured MRSA killed her. Intensive care doctors said it would be inhuman to treat her just so she could go back to the nursing home. She lost 40 lbs and all this happened in 3 months!!!! C diff is BAD stuff. Couldn’t even sue the rehab because she had no living spouse. Abuse…. Watch antibiotic use….

  5. LP

    My mother fell, bruising her thigh bone. She required extensive bed rest, resulting in UTI and Pneumonia. Course of treatment was PIC in right shoulder area, massive amounts of antibiotics for 15 days. No one questioned the long use of the antibiotics in her stays in 3 hospitals and one for weeks of phys. therapy. She received the meds January-February.
    She died in March of the same year due to diarrhea caused by the use of these antibiotics and doctors not replacing the good bacteria. They would not even allow me to bring her yogurt, which she had eaten daily for years. In her last days of a very painful death, the Dietitian told me the yogurt along with Rx to replace good bacteria, could have saved her life.
    Even tho I argued with several of her doctors, they still refused to try it. My mom was 86 yrs old.

  6. Alison

    Probiotics worked faster. two or three days vs. two weeks. Too much yogurt sours my stomach. >>Alison

  7. AHF

    I am amazed at the number of comments that this happened to after going to the dentist for tooth infection. The same thing happened to me. I always have some stomach upset when taking antibiotics, but in 2008 I have an abscess tooth that entered my jaw bone. I was on two different antibiotics for 35 days. I too ended up with c. dificle. I went through all the treatment for that. Then the following year I had an ear infection.
    After two days of antibiotic, the c. dif was back! I then had to see an ENT for two months until the ear infection eventually cleared up on its own. This past year I again had a sever up respiratory infection and had to be put on antibiotics. By this time I had heard about probiotics.
    I had been taking them daily for about six months. I doubled up on them and ate yogurt three times a day. I got through the antibiotics, it was a Z-pac. I still had extreme stomach upset, BUT after I finished the antibiotics my stomach was back to “normal” and I didn’t have to see the gastroenterologist several times a week. That was a tremendous breakthrough for me.
    Also, my gastroenterologist put me on Welcohl, a medicine for high cholesterol when I have stomach upset after the antibiotics. I take six a day to bind my intestines and it eliminates the diarrhea. Next time I have to go on antibiotics, I will take this too. It has to be taken two hours before you take any other medicines. It’s worth asking about.

  8. abigail

    I have read that some foods have antibacterial properties. What are these foods, and should we be concerned about these foods having an effect on the good bacteria in our intestinal tract?

  9. JT

    Some doctor’s are telling people who have been on antibiotics to eat yogurt daily to restore the balance. At least once or twice a/day depending on the size of the container one is using. Also, be sure that yogurt contains live cultures, and take indefinitely.

  10. SDW

    How interesting that it takes a scientific experiment and 45 years to prove something I already knew. When I was a teenager, my dermatologist gave me antibiotics to “cure” my acne. It gave me so many digestive problems and yeast infections that I quit taking them and have pretty much avoided them since. When I told my doctor the problems they were giving me, he just said “well, do you want a pretty face or not”. Thankfully, bedside manners have improved since then.

  11. Meriton

    Ciprofloxacin when I use It always causes to me diarrhea, a bad one and also bad gases. It is really bad, If I could avoid It I would. :)

  12. HB

    My doctor prescribed Cipro in late June for a bladder bacterial infection, took that stuff for 7 days and it completely wiped me out and that includes my good bacteria. I have suffered with such reflux and terrible burning pain in the abdominal area had to have Upper GI done -plus endoscopy. I never had this until about two weeks after I had taken this horrible antibiotic, now I have the reflux problem and it may have caused other problems.
    I really feel that this medication should not be given out so freely especially when there are other meds that can do the job without all these problems from antibiotics. I personally should have questioned this because I have a terrible time with antibiotics and would of never taken this one had I know what I was going to have to go through. One other thing that really irritates me is, they give everyone, no matter what weight, age you are, the same dose. I say “one size” does not fit all.
    By the way for others out there -the symptoms don’t always appear right a way, this can happen anywhere from 2-5 weeks after you finished the medication, which I found out just recently. What a kicker that was. NO MORE FOR ME.

  13. Dave

    What about PRO-BIOTICS ???? We have used these very successfully in combination with antibiotics if we HAVE to take them.

  14. anner

    No kidding – my painful experience bears this out. A dentist prescribed Clindamycin to “prevent” infection along with a pain killer (never took it) as I had to travel with a slight pain in a tooth that had been capped. After 6 of 7 days I called to advise him that I was having diarrhea for the past few days – he said continue on to finish the prescription. Then I read the handout from the pharmacy and saw “seldom fatal” so I stopped and called my internist who advised to immediately begin Florastor (otc probiotic) which helped a lot. When I got to my doctor and learned I had c.difficile I had to take a stronger medicine – 2 rounds of it – before my stomach was back in reasonable order. It took weeks to be back to normal.
    I asked my pharmacist if people often responded poorly to Clindamycin and was told yes and that it is the prescription of choice for dentists. Either no one tells their dentist they got sick or big pharma is offering huge incentives for them to prescribe it. The dentist never called to see how I was doing even after I sent him a non-judgmental email regarding the benefits of Florastor.
    My lesson for the day – read all pharmacy handouts before taking medicine and weigh the benefits. You know what I mean – do you really want a pill to combat depression that will cause suicidal thoughts?
    When Drs. prescribe antibiotics and don’t tell people about suitable probiotics (they differ with when to take so as not to interfere with benefits of antibiotics) they are doing a serious dis-service to their patients. Ask anyone who’s had c.dificle and you’ll hear horror stories. I had a terrible experience with pain, holding in food, digestion, and worry as I am ordinarily a very healthy person and didn’t think a dentist would prescribe a medicine that is “rarely fatal” as a deterrent for a minor pain. I tried to notify CDC but their website reporting was not easy.

  15. Alison

    I had a serious tooth infection and had to take antibiotics for over two months. The drugs made me so sick that whatever I ate went right through me, and I lost nine pounds. My stool turn white, and my lower gut felt like it was twisting and shaking every time I had the urge to go to the bathroom. The doctors kept giving me more antibiotics to clear up this condition. Then I started to take Nutri-Health probiotics at first 4 a day, then 2 per day, and then one per day for a WHOLE YEAR. Even now 4 years later I still have to take one probiotic at least every other day or my lower gut hurts.
    All the doctors want to do is give me antibiotics after examining me and telling me they can’t find anything “wrong.” I tell them to keep their drugs unless I really do have a serious infection / illness. Jarrow Formulas probiotic works well also. It takes research to decide which brand to use because I notice a few formulas have laxatives, and other ingredients I considered “junk” in them.

  16. Rebekah P.

    Terry & Joe,
    As a nutritionist working with the Women, Infant, Children program, I have recommended consuming 1 cup of yogurt w/ active, live cultures to help protect against yeast infection because the good bacteria produced by the gut is compromised with ingesting an antibiotic. In your opinion, is this recommendation viable?

  17. CHE

    Just based on family history and their cases of IBS, I have long suspected that it was antibiotics that was a cause of their IBS.
    They are controlling it with yogurt, thus replacing the necessary bacteria in the gut necessary for good digestion. It took my son years to finally figure this out and it has been a godsend to the rest of the family that needed relief from IBS symptoms.

  18. GM

    This happened to me because of an infected tooth in April/May 2009. It’s now September 2010, and I’m still battling it with lots of probiotics and by drinking 1/2 cup aloe vera juice twice a day. All this is very expensive. When I try to reduce the amounts of probiotics, the colitis comes right back again.

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