Remember the last time you were sick and had to go on antibiotics: woolly mouth, loss of appetite and a terrible stomach, putting you off food completely. “It's dry toast and tea for me,” you said as you swallowed pill after pill before running to the bathroom--yet again.
It turns out that there may be a solution and an easy one; replace your toast and tea with the right sort of curd. According to a research study published recently in the journal Nutrients, eating yoghurt containing a particular strain of a well-studied probiotic, Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12, appears to protect against harmful changes in the gut microbiome that are associated with antibiotic administration. The study states that about one in five people who take antibiotics develop antibiotic-associated diarrhoea due to the drugs disrupting the healthy gut microbiome. “Patients may stop taking their medications early after developing diarrhoea, which could cause their original infection to persist,” stated the study.
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Forty-two health volunteers were asked to consume a daily serving-size container of yoghurt containing BB-12 along with the antibiotic amoxicillin-clavulanate. They continued eating the yoghurt even when the week-long course was over. The control group of 20 other volunteers on the same antibiotic course also consumed yoghurt daily but without probiotics.
The study found that the short-chain fatty acid acetate (SCFA)levels, a beneficial metabolite produced by the microbiota, were reduced in all subjects after taking the antibiotic. Since SCFAs “play a role in preserving gut barrier functions and have immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties,” as a 2019 study published in the journal Medicine, Baltimore points out, this directly impacts gut health. However, this randomised clinical trial did offer a way to combat these issues. “The reduction in acetate was significantly greater in subjects receiving the placebo yoghurt as compared with BB-12 supplemented yoghurt,” pointed out that study, adding that the acetate levels in subjects who received BB-12 returned to baseline levels in 30 days, unlike those who received the placebo who still dealt with below-baseline acetate levels.
"This finding provides important new insights into the mechanisms by which the probiotic, BB-12, may protect against antibiotic-associated diarrhoea," said study co-leader Claire Fraser, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Dean's Endowed Professor University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) and Director of the UMSOM Institute for Genome Sciences. Study co-leader Daniel Merenstein, MD, Professor of Family Medicine and Director of Research Programs for the Department of Family Medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine, added that timing may also have played a part in this. “Starting the probiotic as early as possible, before the antibiotic symptoms have progressed, may result in a greater opportunity for the probiotic mechanisms to be expressed and may ultimately lead to more beneficial clinical outcomes." The researchers plan to conduct further studies on this.