What are antibiotics and why are they prescribed?
Antibiotics when discovered were a boon to the mankind. They are drugs which can effectively fight disease causing bacteria from the root. They either kill or slow down the spread of these bacteria bringing symptomatic relief and increasing longevity, provided we take it correctly.
Antibiotics are majorly prescribed to all age groups to treat infections such as typhoid, food poisoning, urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, stomach infections & ear infections. But when they are taken inappropriately, they can back fire. Here we highlight popular misconceptions of antibiotics.
Misconceptions about antibiotics
If the symptoms get subsided, it’s better to stop antibiotics
Fact: It is important to complete the prescribed course of antibiotics, even if you are feeling better. If treatment stops too early as symptoms subside, the drug may not kill all the bacteria. The symptoms may reappear soon, and you may become sick again, and the remaining bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotic that you have taken.
Same antibiotic can be given to your friend or family member which is prescribed to you.
Fact: Each and every antibiotic comes with different mode of action. Even if the symptoms appear as same for you and your dear ones, the underlying condition could vary and should not be self-diagnosed. Sometimes these cases would not require an antibiotic, or some cases need high doses of antibiotic even if same course is prescribed. Hence antibiotics should not be taken on own.
Antibiotics are necessary to cure all types of conditions.
Fact: Not all conditions require antibiotics for treatment. Some conditions like normal fever, cough, all types of body aches, and common cold can be treated in accordance with the symptoms by administering anti pyretic drugs and pain killers. Especially Viral fevers/ infections don’t require antibiotics until and unless prescribed by a doctor to prevent bacteria along with viral infections.
All antibiotics produce severe side effects
Fact: It’s a fact that antibiotics produce mild side effects, but all these effects subside with in a day or two after completion of antibiotic course. But if a person is taking antibiotics for longer durations, without doctor’s advice, there are chances of getting serious side effects.
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Dangers of antibiotic resistance and super bugs
The concept of super bug is an emerging concern to both the patients and health care providers. A microbe which cannot be countered with even high doses of various antibiotics is known as super bug. Till date, the center for disease control U.S. has listed about 18 drug-resistant microbes, which is an alarming sign as the microbes are acquiring drug resistance. To some extent, we ourselves are responsible for promoting drug resistant super bugs by making some common mistakes while taking antibiotics. Below points specify a few common mistakes.
- Taking antibiotics without prescription.
- Taking the wrong antibiotic for that specific condition (for example throat pain will not subside if you’ve taken antibiotic specific to urinary tract infection).
- Using antibiotics beyond the course because symptoms re-occur & still persist.
- Stopping antibiotics without completing the course prescribed.
- Taking higher doses than prescribed for a faster recovery.
- Taking antibiotics which are not stored properly, as the method of storage also affects the efficacy of these drugs.
Common side effects of antibiotics
- Tasteless tongue
- Vomiting/ Nausea
- Loss of appetite
- Fungal infection
If conditions worsen, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor.
Foods to eat and foods to avoid while taking antibiotics
Remember, most of the antibiotics are to be taken with light food and not on empty stomach until your doctor has advised so.
Here are some best and worst foods which you should and shouldn’t eat during and after antibiotics.
Lactobacilli, Saccharomyces and Bifidobacterium are the most effective bacteria which are very common in probiotic products. In few studies, it is shown that probiotics can reduce the risk of antibiotic-associated side effects, such as diarrhoea and other digestive problems. Probiotics are healthy bacteria and antibiotics kill both good and disease-causing bacteria. So, it is important to take antibiotics along with probiotics, but one has to maintain a specified gap of at least 2 hours. Probiotics are found in the cultures of dairy products, including yogurt, cheese, sour cream and other foods like kefir. Probiotics can also help to reestablish the gut bacteria after taking antibiotics.
Prebiotic foods enhance the growth of good bacteria, which might be killed by taking antibiotics. They are the building blocks for healthy gut bacteria. Garlic, onion, leeks, asparagus, banana, barley, oats, apple, cocoa beans, flaxseeds, seaweed and wheat bran have powerful prebiotic benefits and they promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
Fermented foods and dairy products work as probiotics and help to reduce the risk of antibiotic related side effects. Cheese, curd, sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt, and kimchi have many health benefits and they reestablish the damaged gut bacteria after taking antibiotics.
Body maintains the stability of good and bad bacteria in gastrointestinal tract. While taking antibiotics, deficiency of vitamin K may contribute to bacterial imbalances. Vitamin K, to some extent, will be made by bacteria that are present in the intestinal tract. Vitamin K is mostly present in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, parsley, and green leaf lettuce. Other vegetables rich in Vitamin K are broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts. Fish, eggs, and meat also contain vitamin K in moderation. (Avoid taking vitamin K rich foods, if your prescribed medicine course includes any anticoagulants such as warfarin).
Antibiotics should be taken only with water. Taking antibiotics with milk, fruit juices or with any beverages affects the absorption of these drugs. Oral antibiotics have to be absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and milk can block the absorption as the calcium present in milk binds to the antibiotic in the gut and reduces absorption. In few studies , it has been shown that food supplements with high doses of calcium mostly interfere with the absorption of some antibiotics. Maintain an interval of at least 2-3 hours between antibiotics and any dairy products.
During the course of antibiotics, one has to avoid citrus fruits and fruit juices as much as possible, especially a variety of grapefruit or grapefruit juice as the sourness of citrus products interfere with the absorption of antibiotics. It contains compounds called furanocoumarin, which can raise potency of medicine by interacting with enzymes in the liver and gastrointestinal tract.
Alcohol and antibiotics:
Mixing any medication, especially antibiotics, with alcohol can lead to a mass of unreceptive side effects like nausea, dizziness, abdominal cramps, breathing problems and heart rate issues. Avoid taking alcohol throughout the period of antibiotic course and at least for 48 hours after the end of treatment.
Fiber rich foods:
Fiber can slowdown the rate of food absorption in the body and has a potency to affect antibiotic absorption. Foods which contain rich amounts of fiber are whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. They can be taken in moderation and there should be a gap of 2-3 hours after taking antibiotics.
Antibiotics were created by druggist to curb down all the fatal bacterial infections even causing death in earlier times. But its ready availability and usage without knowledge has led to abuse and ineffectiveness. Hence, next time you are taking or recommending any antibiotic to anyone without doctor’s suggestion then think again. It’s always better to seek the help of a registered doctor and be safe.