Are Your Meds Messing With Your Gut?

Many have started to realize that our guts are complex biological systems filled with trillions of microscopic residents. This diverse array of bacteria live in cooperation with our bodies, working to keep our systems balanced and functioning—and in return, we offer them a place to live.

Experts have warned for some time now that antibiotics can have harmful impacts on our gut health, but now they’re finding other meds could be having similar effects. The full scope could make us rethink much of what we decide to put in our bodies.


Maintaining a Delicate Balance of Bacteria

Researchers believe we can alter the bacteria in our guts in several ways. Besides medications, smoking, unhealthy diets and heavy stress levels all appear to influence the ratios of different microbes we host.

And now evidence is growing that antibiotics aren’t the only medications to also have the power to stir up gut changes. MedicalNewsToday explains that alterations in our flora can make people more likely to develop certain infections, and they may even contribute to obesity and antimicrobial resistance.

Some potential culprits of these modifications include:

  • Acetaminophen may induce the gut production of a compound that increases the drug’s toxicity.
  • Ibuprofen may increase the numbers of Enterobacteriaceae, Pseudomonadaceae and other potentially harmful bacteria.
  • Other NSAIDs may alter other bacterial strains, some of which may contribute to their gastrointestinal side-effects.
  • Proton pump inhibitors may increase the bacterial changes triggered by ibuprofen.
  • Dayquil and some other cough syrups may increase dangerous Bacteroides.
  • Antidepressants may kill off some good gut microbes.
  • Metformin may also have severe impacts on gut balance.

Researchers are likely to find countless additional medications that have similar effects as they dig deeper. 


How to Reduce Medication Impact on the Gut Microbiome

Never alter a prescription drug regimen without first getting the go-ahead from a qualified doctor, but consider the OTC drugs sitting in the medicine cabinet. How often are they really necessary? Are they necessary at all

Because we’ve likely only hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the different ways medications affect our microbiomes, a minimalist approach is likely best when it comes to things that may be hampering our gut-building efforts. Where possible, it might at least be possible to consider how you can build back the microbiome and promote a healthy gut alongside any medications.

Medications can be vital to health, and we'd never recommend stopping meds, but it's worth thinking about the unintended consequences so we can work to offset and keep our guts in good working order while our meds do the work we need them to. It’s important not to take for granted that, just because we don’t immediately see them, there aren't side-effects or impacts happening inside our bodies when we take medication. Probiotics, prebiotics, and gut-health regimens may help—and your doctor may have some great suggestions, too, so check with them.

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3/29/2021 7:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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