Are Antibiotics Safe For Athletes?

Even when necessary they can still play havoc with a healthy gut biome.

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If an athlete must use antibiotics for an infection, what steps can he take to limit the damage to his healthy gut biome? Should he take priobiotics? What about prebiotics? How much of these and when?

Antibiotics are sometimes necessary. But even when necessary they can still play havoc with a healthy gut biome. In Japan, probiotics are regularly prescribed simultaneously with antibiotics in recognition of the fact that while the antibiotics do their job in killing off disease-causing bacteria, they also kill off healthy bacteria. Supplying probiotics is an attempt to help counter this effect.

You can help yourself and the bacterial population residing in your gut through a diet that supplies both probiotics, which are supplementary healthy gut bacteria, and prebiotics, which are the foods that fuel the healthy bacteria already residing in your gut. Supplemental probiotics might also be helpful, especially if you are following a course of antibiotics.

Help your gut with a diet that supplies fermented foods such as kefir, yogurt, miso, kombucha, sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables. These foods are full of healthy bacteria that will help you digest.

You can feed those healthy bacteria with prebiotics—think plant matter. It’s the soluble fiber from plant matter that feeds healthy gut bacteria. The skins of fruits and vegetables are great, as are nuts and seeds. A steady intake of all of these healthy foods is critical.

You can also take a supplemental probiotic, most of which are found in the refrigerated section of pharmacies and health food shops (although there are some shelf-stable varieties available).

Different bacterial strains offer different benefits, so look for probiotics that provide multi-strains and in large numbers: 25-65 billion bacteria in each dose. Having one or two of these daily will help maintain a healthy gut flora.

If you are taking antibiotics, you could separate your doses of antibiotics and probiotics if you like, but the timing is less important than simply consuming probiotics regularly.

Republished with permission of VeloPress from The Athlete’s Fix, Pip Taylor’s three-step program to help athletes identify their problem foods and find the foods that make them feel and perform best. Get started at

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