RSSAntibiotics worse for digestive health than realized

Posted on Sun, 19 Apr 15

Antibiotics worse for digestive health than realized

Antibiotics have long been known to kill off your healthy gut bacteria, but new research suggests they damage your mitochondria and destroy your gut wall as well.

Almost half of American adults and 70% of children take at least one course of antibiotics each year, along with billions of animal livestock. Side effects of antibiotics are common and previously thought to be mostly due to killing your gut bacteria.

“Antibiotic-induced changes in the microbiota have been implicated in the development of such pathologies as diarrhoea, colitis, sepsis and an increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease, obesity and allergies” point out a research group from Oregon State University who recently discovered that antibiotics impact gut bacteria and the gut itself in ways more complex than previously realized.

In an experimental model they found that antibiotics not only depleted the microbiota but also were toxic to mitochondria, the energy producing parts of our cells, and destroyed the epithelial cells that line the gut wall (1).

Antibiotics inhibited mitochondrial gene expression and amounts of active mitochondria, increasing epithelial cell death. This was a direct effect of antibiotics on cells and an effect of antibiotic-resistant microbiota.

“Prior to this most people thought antibiotics only depleted microbiota and diminished several important immune functions that take place in the gut,” said assistant professor Andrey Morgun, lead author of the study (2). “Actually that’s only about one-third of the picture. They also kill intestinal epithelium. Destruction of the intestinal epithelium is important because this is the site of nutrient absorption, part of our immune system and it has other biological functions that play a role in human health.”

While antibiotics are sometimes necessary, you could minimize reductions in your good bacteria and reduce risk of side effects by taking a good quality probiotic supplement with your prescription (3).


  1. Morgun A, Dzutsev A, Dong X, Greer RL, Sexton DJ, Ravel J, Schuster M, Hsiao W, Matzinger P, Shulzhenko N. Uncovering effects of antibiotics on the host and microbiota using transkingdom gene networks. Gut. 2015 Jan 22. pii: gutjnl-2014-308820. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2014-308820. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Oregon State University. Press release. Unwanted impact of antibiotics broader, more complex than previously known. 02/10/2015
  3. Hempel S, Newberry SJ, Maher AR, Wang Z, Miles JN, Shanman R, Johnsen B, Shekelle PG. Probiotics for the prevention and treatment of antibiotic-associated diarrhea: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2012 May 9;307(18):1959-69.

Tags: Antibiotics, Probiotics, Digestive Health, Gut Bacteria

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