Doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat infections or diseases caused by bacteria, such as some respiratory tract infections, skin infections and infected wounds.
The drugs block vital processes in bacteria to either kill them or stop them from multiplying. This helps your natural immune system fight the infection.
Different antibiotics work differently against bacteria. For example, penicillin destroys the bacterial cell walls, whereas erythromycin stops protein building in bacteria.
While appropriate use of antibiotics is important in timely treatment of various infections, they may have side effects that cause other temporary health issues. Some may even be linked to more serious diseases.
Here are 10 things to watch for while taking antibiotics.
Diarrhea is a common adverse effect of antibiotic use. Antibiotics can upset the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut by killing the good microbes along with infection-causing bacteria. This leads to antibiotic-associated diarrhea causing watery stools.
Some of the antibiotics most commonly linked to antibiotic-associated diarrhea are Cephalosporins, Clindamycin, Penicillin and Fluoroquinolones.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes that probiotic use is effective in the prevention and treatment of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
To prevent or treat this side effect of antibiotics, add some probiotic yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, or miso to your diet.
2. Nausea and Vomiting
While taking antibiotics like penicillin and metronidazole, many people experience nausea and vomiting.
These symptoms occur when antibiotics kill off some of the good bacteria living in your intestine. This leads to problems like bloating, nausea and vomiting, which are usually mild and transient.
If you have nausea from an antibiotic treatment, you can eat some probiotic yogurt and drink ginger tea.
3. Vaginal Yeast Infections
Candida and other germs living inside the vagina are harmless when present in a natural balance. However, antibiotics used to treat a variety of infections may change the natural balance of these bacteria and increase the number of candida yeast, which may lead to a vaginal yeast infection.
Symptoms of a yeast infection include a thick, white vaginal discharge as well as burning and itching.
Some of the antibiotics that can change the bacterial balance in the body include clindamycin and tetracycline.
If you are taking either of these antibiotics, daily eat at least 1 cup of Greek yogurt with active and live cultures to prevent a yeast infection. You can also ask your doctor to prescribe some probiotic supplement.
4. Allergic Reactions
Some people are allergic to antibiotics like penicillin and cephalosporins. The allergic reactions may include symptoms like hives, skin rashes, itching, swelling, shortness of breath, wheezing, runny nose, fever and anaphylaxis.
Moreover, a 2014 study published in The BMJ notes a positive association between exposure to antibiotics in fetal life or childhood and subsequent asthma.
Minimize unnecessary antibiotic use and steer clear of the antibiotics that you are allergic to. Report any adverse reactions to your doctor so that a different antibiotic can be prescribed when needed.
5. Weakened Immunity
More than 80 percent of the body’s immunity is built in the intestinal tract with the help of friendly bacteria that reside there. However, antibiotics indiscriminately kill bacteria, both good and bad.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine note that the prolonged use of antibiotics may effectively diminish the efficiency of the body’s immune system, thus increasing the risk of developing secondary bacterial infections.
Include foods in your diet that are rich in antibiotic properties, such as ginger, yogurt, neem, oregano, grapefruit, turmeric and garlic.
6. Cancer Risk
Excessive use of antibiotics may cause oxidative stress and increase the risk of developing certain cancers, such as colon, breast and liver cancer.
This mainly happens due to misuse of antibiotics, which can only cure bacterial infections. Many people use incorrectly prescribed antibiotics for treating viral infections like colds, the flu, acute bronchitis, sore throats, and others.
A 2004 study published in The Journal of American Medical Association has linked the use of antibiotics with increased risk of incident and fatal breast cancer.
However, this study did not determine whether antibiotic use is causally related to breast cancer or if other factors were involved.