Probiotics Vs. Antibiotics

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The two names--antibiotic and probiotic--give you an idea of the difference in the way the two treatments work. "Antibiotic" means "against life," while the coined phrase "probiotic," developed when a writer tried to contrast the use of beneficial bacteria to fight infection over accepted medical practices of killing all bacteria, means "for life."

Function

Antibiotics kill both friendly and destructive bacteria. Some of the friendly bacteria keep fungi in check. Antibiotics often encourage yeast and other fungus infections.

Significance

Often diarrhea occurs after a round of antibiotics. This happens because friendly bacteria die and no longer provide aid in digesting foods.

Benefits

Probiotics help the immune system work more efficiently. By increasing the immune response, the body helps heal itself and prevent further infection.

Considerations

The government doesn’t regulate probiotics as it does antibiotics. Probiotics are a dietary supplement, not a medication. There's a potential for unfriendly bacteria in the probiotics.

Allergies

Many people suffer allergic reactions to antibiotics. While people on probiotics may experience the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction, called a herx reaction, when the friendly bacteria create a toxin back-up, this is not life-threatening like some allergic reactions to antibiotics.

Warning

Probiotics may cause death in people with already compromised immune systems. The Dutch no longer allow probiotics to be given to intensive care patients because of several deaths. Some patients given probiotics develop lethal strains of bacteria. Excessive use of antibiotics also causes mutations of bacteria to super-bug status.

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