Whether you have strep throat or a UTI, you’re on antibiotics. You want them to work as quickly and efficiently as possible, with the fewest amount of side effects. In your Google research, you notice the question: Should I eat yogurt while taking antibiotics? The short answer is, yes, it definitely could help. Read on for what the pros say about the foods you should (and shouldn’t) eat while taking antibiotics.
What Are Antibiotics?
According to the CDC, antibiotics are “medicines that fight infections caused by bacteria in humans and animals by either killing the bacteria or making it difficult for the bacteria to grow and multiply.” Basically, if you have a bacterial infection (like strep throat, urinary tract infections or MRSA), antibiotics make you feel better by killing said bacteria—or at least stopping it from growing. (The least they can do, right?) And when antibiotics are used, they can cause side effects. These can include common ones like rash, nausea or diarrhea, or more serious issues like severe allergic reactions. Some foods can reduce these side effects, while others may make them worse.
Should I Eat Yogurt While Taking Antibiotics?
You’ve probably seen this written on your favorite flavor of Chobani, but yogurt in general is an excellent source of probiotics aka, the good bacteria in your body. They live in your gut, mouth, vagina and urinary tract and basically help maintain equilibrium with the bad bacteria. Consuming yogurt while taking antibiotics may help prevent the diarrhea that often accompanies antibiotic treatment.
In a 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a team of California-based researchers observed 12,000 men and women taking antibiotics. Those who took antibiotics plus probiotics (like yogurt) were 42 percent less likely to develop diarrhea as those who got the placebo. While yogurt can help diminish some of the negative side effects of antibiotics, it’s not the only option.
7 Foods to Eat While Taking Antibiotics
In addition to yogurt (and over-the-counter probiotics, which aren’t technically a food, but are an easy way to make sure your body is getting enough good bacteria) consider loading up on these eight probiotic-rich foods to decrease the negative side effects of antibiotics.
You know this pickled cabbage dish is the ultimate hot dog topping, but did you know that it’s also full of probiotics and equally delicious when piled onto a salad or sandwich? And one study published in World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology found that sauerkraut could also reduce cholesterol levels. Just make sure to double-check the label before buying—you want the raw, unpasteurized stuff (or hey, make your own).
Yep, your favorite martini garnish is also good for your gastrointestinal tract. That’s because olives packed in brine are actually a fermented food that’s rich in gut-friendly lactobacillus bacteria. They’re also high in fiber and antioxidants so, cheers to these juicy gems.
3. *Some* Cheeses
While not all cheeses are a good source of probiotics (sorry), some soft, fermented ones like cheddar, Swiss and Gouda are since they contain bacteria that can survive the journey through your gastrointestinal tract. To make sure you’re getting the right stuff, look out for “live and active cultures” on the label.
This fermented Asian dish made with cabbage, radishes and scallions is loaded with gut-friendly bacteria. Researchers from Korea have also found evidence that this spicy, briny dish can help you stay slim. Try it mixed with brown rice or on its own as a tasty side.
5. Green Peas
A Japanese study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that these bright green vegetables contain Leuconostoc mesenteroides, a powerful probiotic.
The tangy beverage made by fermenting milk with bacteria and yeast is actually an even better source of probiotics than yogurt. It also boasts high levels of nutrients like protein, calcium, vitamin B12 and magnesium. Use it the same way you would its creamier cousin (we like ours poured over cereal).
7. Sourdough Bread
The “sour” taste of our favorite avocado vessel comes from the fermentation process, during which yeast and good bacteria work their magic to break down the sugar and gluten in flour. This makes nutrients easier to digest and absorb. And while the baking process kills off the live cultures, sourdough bread is a great prebiotic, and there is evidence to suggest that even dead probiotic bacteria has some impressive anti-inflammatory health benefits.
3 Foods to Avoid While Taking Antibiotics
While you’re on antibiotics, it’s best to stay away from these gorgeous, breakfast-ready fruits—and the juice that comes from them. Why? This is because grapefruit juice and many medications are broken down by an enzyme called cytochrome P450. Eating grapefruit while on antibiotics can prevent the body from breaking down the medication properly, which could be potentially harmful to your health.
2. Too Much Calcium
Like grapefruit, calcium-fortified foods (like orange juice) can interfere with how antibiotics are absorbed in the body, according to studies, like this one published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.
It’s better to postpone that wine tasting with your friends until after you’ve finished your prescribed antibiotics. Per the folks at Mayo Clinic, antibiotics and alcohol can cause similar side effects (including upset stomach, dizziness and drowsiness). Combining antibiotics and alcohol can therefore increase these side effects. And although modest alcohol shouldn’t reduce the effectiveness of most antibiotics, it can delay how quickly you recover from illness. Translation: Wait until you’re done with your medication to start drinking—we promise you’ll feel better.
2 Types of Foods to Eat *After* Taking Antibiotics
After you’ve finished your round of antibiotics, you want to make sure to replenish your body and bring everything back to that nice equilibrium. One simple way to do so is by loading up on some of the nutrients below.
1. Prebiotic-rich foods
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, onions are a great source of prebiotics—foods that the good bacteria in your gut feeds on. If you’re a hardcore onion hater, garlic, bananas, chicory root and artichokes are also good sources of prebiotics.
Like…all of them. We’re talking kale, spinach, collards, parsley, Swiss chard, the works. Not only are they a good source of fiber, which will help smooth things over digestion wise, but they’re also a good source of vitamin K, which can be diminished while on antibiotics.