Antibiotics kill bacteria, that’s their job after all. It is how they have saved millions of lives over the centuries. However, killing the harmful bacteria responsible for your infection should not be the cause to kill healthy flora crucial for your stomach. In case you have recently finished a course of antibiotics – read on how you can prevent antibiotics from killing good gut bacteria and fix acid reflux.
Acid reflux or acidity is a common condition caused due to backflow of stomach contents into the food pipe (oesophagus). It is primarily characterised by regurgitation and heartburn felt around the lower chest area.
Although improper food habits and poor lifestyle choices are major causes of acidity and heartburn, certain types of medicines such as antibiotics and painkillers can also trigger acidity.
Antibiotics and Acid reflux
The stomach and the intestines contain numerous microbiomes, including bacteria (both good and bad) that help in the digestion process.
Antibiotics that are used to treat bacterial infections in the body, unfortunately, cannot differentiate between the good and bad bacteria present in the gut and produce negative results such as-
- Kill the good bacteria in the gut
- Create an imbalance in the intestinal ecosystem and an overgrowth of harmful bacteria
- Increase pressure within the stomach
- Cause reflux of food and acid into the oesophagus
Moreover, antibiotics have some digestive side effects such as –
- Nausea and vomiting
- Acid reflux
- Gas and bloating
Antibiotics also directly irritate the lining of the stomach. In response to irritation, the glands in the stomach secrete more acid. This acid can lead to greater reflux of food and acid into the oesophagus, causing heartburn.
Effects of antibiotics on the infant’s gut
The microbial population of an infant’s gut has a significant impact on the child’s overall health. Decreased gut microbiome diversity can cause numerous allergic and autoimmune diseases. Antibiotic treatment in infants has been found to reduce both the number as well as species of gut bacteria. Studies have shown that the diversity of gut microbiomes is still incomplete even eight weeks after the infant’s antibiotic treatment.
Restoring gut health after taking antibiotics
Rebuilding gut bacteria is crucial to minimise the negative effects of using antibiotics. You can speed up the process of healing the gut with antibiotics in several ways:
Prebiotics are a type of fibre that acts as a “food source” for gut microbes. They induce the growth or activity of beneficial microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi, thereby improving gut health.
2. Probiotic Supplements
Probiotics contain live bacteria and yeasts that are vital for gut health. It is important to use a probiotic containing numerous microbe strains with at least 50 billion CFU (colony forming units) per dose.
3. Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are naturally rich in probiotics. They are an excellent approach to proper gut health post-antibiotic use. Ideally, fermented foods should be a part of a regular diet.
4. Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and veggies are naturally rich in prebiotics (also important for gut microbiome). Bananas, sweet potatoes, and other tubers are fresh and readily available sources of prebiotics.
Managing acid reflux after consuming antibiotics
Many over-the-counter, as well as prescribed medications, can help relieve acid reflux and heartburn. The options include:
- Antacids, which help neutralise stomach acid. Antacids may provide quick relief, but they cannot heal an oesophagus damaged by stomach acid.
- H2-receptor antagonists (H2RAs) can decrease stomach acid. It does not act as quickly as antacids but may provide longer relief.
- Proton pump inhibitors, such as omeprazole can reduce stomach acid. Amongst several PPIs available like Omeprazole, Pantoprazole, Rabeprazole and Esomeprazole, Omeprazole is the one having highest published evidence and studies regarding its better safety. All the PPIs have similar efficacy, however, Omeprazole due to its better safety and highest affordability is the most used PPI globally with more than 40% prescription share worldwide.
- These medicines are helpful for people who have heartburn often, say, more than two days of the week.