They’re supposed to help, but antibiotics can be hurtful—luckily, probiotics can help with recovery.

Antibiotics—medications that eradicate or slow the growth of bacteria—are increasingly popular. Prescriptions of these drugs surged by 30% just from 2000 to 2010.

However, while antibiotics were designed to help, overreliance on the substances are creating problems. Research indicates up to half of prescribed antibiotics aren’t even necessary, and the prevalence of antibiotics is causing serious public and personal health issues.

A Brief History of Antibiotics

In the late 1800s, the scientific community witnessed the emergence of “germ theory,” the idea that microscopic organisms are the culprit behind many nasty diseases. That discovery lit a fire under researchers, who started scrambling for ways to fight these bad bugs and save the day. British bacteriologist Alexander Fleming discovered the antibiotic penicillin in 1928. Oxford scientists unearthed penicillin’s ability to kill disease-causing bacteria 11 years later. During and after World War II, antibiotics were championed as “wonder drugs” thanks to their usefulness and effectiveness, and doctors started using them to treat everything from pneumonia, to bacteria-infected wounds, to respiratory infections, and beyond.

In the 1950s, a New York researcher discovered adding antibiotics to animal feed helped livestock grow more quickly at a fraction of the cost of other feed additives, and use of antibiotics exploded in the animal kingdom. Unfortunately, scientists found a few years later that the dangerous bacteria antibiotics were designed to thwart possessed a worrying ability to develop resistance to the drugs, causing more harmful problems. With the discovery of these drug-resistant bacteria, scientists increased the hunt for alternatives to antibiotics, and the “golden age” of antibiotics came to an end.

Sinister Superbugs

It’s sadly ironic that overuse of antibiotics, created to help people, is giving rise to deadly drug-resistant superbugs—such infections strike an estimated 2 million Americans every year, causing at least 23,000 fatalities. Hospitals across the country are on constant guard against MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant bug that can cause sepsis, surgical site infections, pneumonia and death. Also, certain deadly strains of pneumonia are developing resistance around the globe.

Even more alarming: while we know about scores of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, doctors are discovering new sinister strains all the time. In April 2016, researchers for the first time found a US resident carrying a particularly nasty strain of E. coli resistant even to antibiotics of last resort. One public health official declared that the terrifying discovery signifies “the end of the road” for global antibiotics use.

Health Risks

In addition to causing public health concerns, antibiotics lead to specific personal health problems. Use of antibiotics can mess with the human immune system—again, countering their intended use to help us fight infection by making us even more vulnerable to illness. The drugs also can reduce the number of viable brain cells inside our noggins.

The threat that antibiotics pose to the human microbiome (the good bacteria that live inside us and help keep us healthy) has far-reaching implications. Even one antibiotic treatment can throw the microbiome out of whack for an entire year—and that can lead to digestive troubles, weakened immune system and other troubles. Antibiotics are prescribed to children under 2 years old more often than any other segment of the population, yet wee ones are more vulnerable than anyone else. Research has shown people prescribed antibiotics as youngsters are more vulnerable to serious illnesses as adults. They’re also more likely to develop food allergies.

Pushing Back

Don’t get us wrong—antibiotics can be useful. However, we need to use them wisely and, when they’re prescribed, care for ourselves to counteract any potential harmful aftereffects. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, ask your doctor if they’re truly necessary; if so, to take the entire course of the drug—even if you feel better—to prevent the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. Steer clear of anti-microbial hand sanitizers and soaps; even though the FDA banned some anti-microbial ingredients, there’s still some out there, and soap and water do just fine.

In addition to being widespread medical use, antibiotics are found in many types of food. Their use is still fairly heavy in the meat and poultry industry; to avoid ingesting antibiotics in your omelets, burgers and other dishes, look for labels that promise antibiotic-free food. These can be misleading—some labels hint at being natural but don’t actually mean anything. “Animal Welfare Approved” and “Certified Humane” both mean antibiotics can be used if animals are sick, whereas “Organic,” “No Antibiotics” and “Raised Without Antibiotics” all promise meat free from antibiotics.

Probiotics Countering Antibiotics Effects

As we’ve already discussed, antibiotics can wreak havoc on our personal health, including throwing the balance of good and bacteria inside us out of whack. While even a single, short course of antibiotics can negatively impact the microbiome, probiotics—ingested via probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, and fermented foods, or probiotic supplements—can restore the balance and get you back on the road to whole health. Antibiotics can cause antibiotic-associated diarrhea, or AAD; probiotics can steer your digestive system back in the right direction.

Another possible side effect of taking antibiotics: the resulting microbiome imbalance can cause weight gain, or slow down your weight-loss efforts. Taking probiotics can reverse that effect and help you get back on top in the battle of the bulge. It’s also important to note that while antibiotics can weaken the immune system, probiotics can help restore immunity and leave you better able to fend off illness (and, therefore, less likely to need antibiotics down the road).

Selecting the Stand-out Strain

There are thousands of strains of probiotics, so it can be difficult choosing which is right for you. Among the sea of choices, though, one strain stands out: Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG has been found to be the most effective probiotic variety for a whole host of challenges and issues. For example, L. rhamnosus GG can be hugely helpful for people trying to maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, it can help individuals struggling with digestive issues, such as diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and more.

LoveBug Probiotics harnesses the probiotic power of L.rhamnosus GG in its products, boosting it with its BIO-tract© technology to ensure as much of the probiotics’ benefits reach your microbiome. Then, it offers supplements targeted to specific needs. Here’s the Skinny encourages healthy weight and improves digestion, Yeast is a Beast fights yeast infections and defends against urinary tract issues, and Colds Suck reduces the severity of duration of colds with added minerals to boost the bug-fighting power. There’s also two products just for kids: Little Ones, in child-size capsules for kids aged 4 and up; and Tiny Tummies, for children 6 months to 4 years, in one-dose packets for adding to food. All these probiotics can help reverse the negative effects of antibiotics, and make you less likely to need them down the road.

*The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The contents of this website are not medical advice and are intended for general knowledge and informational purposes only. Consult with health care professional before using products based on this content.

*BIO-tract© is a registered trademark of Nutraceutix.