We are living in a time of Instant Information, and consumers are over-inundated with incomplete facts. In the health industry, it is pertinent to get all the facts. 

For example, many consumers misunderstand and misuse the terms antibiotic and probiotic.  These terms are becoming popular in our culture, but consumers do not know the concise definition. 

Although the two sound similar, they are, in fact, very different. If we break down the two words we are left with three main parts: anti- (against), pro- (for), and -biotic (having to do with life or living organisms).

There is more to this than just the meanings of these three components.

What are Antibiotics?

In the health industry, antibiotics are drugs that are used to treat bacterial infections.  Most of these antibiotics are derived from bacteria or molds and either kill the intended bacterial target or stop them from reproducing. The body’s natural immune defenses take over and remove them from the body. 

Note that one antibiotic does not treat all types of bacterial infections. Penicillin is not a magical cure all. Doctors and veterinarians prescribe a specific antibiotic for the specific bacterial infection. 

...And Probiotics?

On the other hand, probiotics by definition are organisms that contribute to the overall health of GI Tracks. People often refer to probiotics as “friendly” or “good” bacteria to differentiate between good bacteria and disease/infection-causing bacteria. 

When looking at these definitions, it may appear that antibiotics work against probiotics, but most this isn’t the case exactly.  Again, most antibiotics treat specific bacteria or bacterial infection, so taking an antibiotic will not kill all the bacteria in a digestive system, but it will kill a portion of the beneficial gut flora. 

Naturally, all organisms have probiotics in their digestive systems, most of which line the digestive system’s walls. Newborn individuals get their first probiotics from their mothers’ milk.

How do I get Probitics?

Supplements offer a way to improve the amount of beneficial bacteria in the digestive systems of animals and humans. A widely used probiotic is Lactobacillus acidophilus, most commonly found in yogurt, can be found in many supplements.  There are several strains of probiotic bacteria with different uses and benefits.  That is why you may see multiple types of bacteria in a probiotic product.

Using probiotic supplements is a way to administer a large number of the beneficial bacteria, which then can effectively colonize the digestive system. The more probiotic organisms that colonize the lining of the digestive system, the fewer amount of spaces there are for bad bacteria to infect.

Antibiotic-associated diarrhea is a common problem associated with antibiotic use in both humans and animals. Taking a probiotic in conjunction with an antibiotic is especially beneficial, because taking probiotics can help prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea and other related antibiotic side effects. 

To help keep everyone healthy, find a probiotic and keep it handy for use in association with antibiotics, or better yet – start a daily probiotic regimen for even better results!

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