Antibiotics: How best to manage their side effects
Antibiotics are necessary when you are ill. But they may also have some nasty side effects that leave you feeling uncomfortable and unwell.
You have a sore throat and your doctor has prescribed an antibiotic. The medicine is helping you get relief but you are having side effects like gas, constipation and diarrhoea.
Antibiotics work by destroying bacteria that are making you ill, but they also kill good bacteria in your intestinal system. The friendly bacteria aid in digestion and also fight infection. When antibiotics kill these bacteria, body immunity goes down and we feel tired and uneasy.
In general, the side-effects of antibiotics are not serious. While most people complain of diarrhoea, some other common side-effects may include mild stomach upset, bloating and indigestion. Follow these simple steps to feel better.
Eat light. Taking antibiotics will disturb the balance of good and bad bacteria in your stomach. Your digestion system needs some rest. Avoid fatty and spicy foods. It is better to have easily digestible food in small, regular portions.
Probiotics. Probiotics are friendly bacteria or yeast that don’t cause disease and help your digestive system function properly. Increase your intake of probiotics like yoghurt. Probiotics must be continued long after the course of antibiotics is over.
No smoking and drinking. Quit smoking, alcohol, soda, chocolates, tea and coffee. These may produce unpleasant side effects such as upset stomach, dizziness and drowsiness. Drink lots of water to avoid getting dehydrated.
Avoid orange juice. Highly acidic foods such as carbonated beverages and citrus juices interfere with the working of the medicines. Also, if you need to take vitamin C, then have fresh fruits. Taking it through juices will only increase sugar intake, which will worsen your condition.
Constipation. Ensure you are not constipated. Flax seeds aid bowel movement and also relieve diarrhoea by absorbing excess water.
Some home remedies. Ginger has some natural antibiotic properties which will aid the medication. Boil five mint leaves, an inch of ginger and about half a teaspoon of ajwain in a glass of water till the water is reduced to half. Drink half a glass thrice a day.
Another wonderful remedy in your kitchen is garlic. It contains allicin which flushes the kidneys and liver and cleanses the blood. It thus detoxifies your body of antibiotics.
Vitamins. Adequate intake of nutrients including vitamins A, C, E and zinc are important for the immune system. This is why doctors also prescribe some multivitamin tablets when they give you antibiotics.
Exercise. Continue doing some light exercise but consult your doctor to get specific recommendations.
Always remember to follow the directions carefully and complete the course even if you feel better. If you stop treatment too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you. Do not save antibiotics for later use and don’t use someone else's prescription.
Says Dr. Kashyap Nanavati, MD, general medicine: “Expect some gastrointestinal disturbances. One may also experience altered taste, oral ulcerations, nausea, abdominal discomfort, constipation and vomiting”. He advises that you should always consult your doctor before taking antibiotics and double check with him or her if antibiotics are really required.
“While taking antibiotics, if the patient experiences severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and bleeding in stool, he should report to the doctor immediately,” warns Dr. Nanavati. Patients should also consult the doctor if they develop rash, itching or feel extremely weak. It may be necessary to check the blood counts.