By Dr. Shrey Lakhotia, BDS
Antibiotics and constipation
Antibiotics have the potential to disrupt helpful bacteria in the gut. This is the cause of many gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea, upset stomach, nausea, and constipation.
Diarrhea is much more common effect of antibiotics than constipation.
It is normal for the large intestine, also known as the colon, to be populated by a great host of bacteria.
The colon of an average adult contains at least 400 bacterial species. These helpful colonies of microbes are always competing with one another for resources and space.
The great majority of bacteria found in our guts are classified as "healthy bacteria." The remaining bacteria are considered harmful. Fortunately, the beneficial bacteria deprive them of resources, keeping them from growing in number.
Beneficial colonies of microbes fulfill functions that are needed and helpful, including:
However, a course of antibiotics can greatly decrease the amount of beneficial bacteria, which allows harmful bacteria to multiply and fill in the void.
Unchecked by healthy bacteria, these bad guys multiply quickly and try to take over the colon.
There is a harmful type bacteria called C. difficile (Clostridium difficile) that is present in 4% of healthy adults, but 20% of those in the hospital.
It lays dormant in the large intestine in the form of inactive spores. When antibiotics diminish the colon's beneficial bacteria, the spores of C. difficile are given a chance to germinate and reproduce, releasing a substance that is toxic and which can cause diarrhea.
When there is enough of this toxin present, it can even damage colon walls.
Intestinal Dysbiosis occurs when there is an imbalance of microbials in the intestines.
This imbalance of microbes may cause the following illnesses:
It isn’t just antibiotics that can cause this imbalance of microbes.
There are actually a number of contributing factors. These include:
As more and more damage is done to beneficial colonies, beneficial bacteria are less and less able to keep harmful bacteria in check.
The imbalance becomes more pronounced, resulting in conditions like chronic yeast infection.
It can take many months of healthy eating and the daily consumption of a variety of cultured foods (i.e., kefir, Kombucha, sauerkraut and other cultured veggies) to reverse this imbalance that was caused by antibiotics and constipation.
As microbial colonies feed, they excrete many different types of waste.
Under normal circumstances the body has various waste removal mechanisms it uses to effectively manage microbial waste products.
Unfortunately, when the wrong type of microbes take over, they excrete increased amounts of toxic by-products, which the body may have great difficulty dealing with.
The toxic waste products produced by an out of whack bowel flora are now believed to be contributing factors to many chronic and degenerative diseases, including:
Unbalanced intestinal flora can cause bloating, belching, gas, constipation, diarrhea, GERD, or other intestinal problems resulting from antibiotics and constipation.
When helpful bacteria in the gut are wiped out, one of the natural consequences is constipation.
As mentioned above, bacteria aid in digestion. As they consume the contents of the intestines, their numbers should grow to about 50% of the volume of the stool. These beneficial bacteria are very effective at holding moisture in the stool, much more so than even fiber.
When antibiotics wipe out these beneficial bacteria, stools can't hold moisture as well, which means they become dry, hard and difficult to pass. Of course, that is pretty much what constipation is.
To help prevent antibiotics and constipation situations, we are told to include more fiber in our diet. Good advice!
However, when the wrong kind of microbes control the gut, this can spell disaster. Fiber indeed makes the stool bulkier, but without bacteria to help consume the fiber, the stool becomes dry.
Ouch!!! What is worse than bulky AND dry together? This condition is made worse when a person is even slightly dehydrated, since the body will pull moisture from the colon to use elsewhere.
What is the best way to recolonize the colon with a mixture of good bacteria?
The following can help:
(Paul Schneider here, founder of Best Constipation Remedies. My wife and I have been making our own kefir and Kombucha for years. Here are 2 videos I made that tell you how to make these very economically yourself.)
A magnesium supplement may help to restore normal bowel function during or after a course of antibiotics.
Magnesium is an osmotic agent that pulls more water into the colon.
This can help to produce:
Magnesium helps to relax a tense colon. A magnesium supplement may help to ease muscle cramps or weakness, restless leg syndrome, fatigue or headaches caused by a functional metabolic deficiency of magnesium.
To preserve the flora in the gut, it is best to avoid excessive use of antibiotics. When it becomes necessary to take antibiotics, it is really important to follow it up immediately with a few weeks of probiotics to help keep a good balance in the flora.