The health problems associated with taking antibiotics too often have grown beyond the risk of having them not work when you really need them. Recent studies have found exposure to antibiotics can increase your odds of colon cancer and reprogram your baby’s gut microbiota for the worst.
Unfortunately, antibiotics like ciprofloxacin (Cipro) have been the go-to drugs for people traveling overseas to avoid traveler’s diarrhea, a very popular topic we’ve discussed often in this space. A recent study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases underscores the health risks associated with taking too many antibiotics, leading to the spread of superbugs.
Finnish researchers collected stool samples and surveys from 430 travelers before and after their trips abroad in hopes of finding traces of extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (EBSL), an enzyme generated by the Enterobacteriaceae group of bacteria that produces resistance to many common antibiotics.
The numbers alone signal grave problems from antibiotics. Overall, 21 percent of travelers to tropical and subtropical areas (90 patients) contracted EBSL-producing bacteria during their trips.
The group most affected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria was the 80 percent of Finnish travelers who visited Southern Asia, followed by Southeast Asia, East Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.
According to scientists, the huge health problem was that although those 90 travelers didn’t develop infections while on vacation, they could have spread superbugs when they returned home. Had the number of infected patients been a little larger, detectable symptoms would’ve been found.
“More than 300 million people visit these high-risk regions every year, “says lead study author Dr. Anu Kantele in a press release. “If approximately 20 percent of them are colonized with the bugs, these are really huge numbers. This is a serious thing. The only positive thing is that the colonization is usually transient, lasting for around half a year.”
Should travelers face diarrhea on the road, Dr. Kantele suggests drinking plenty of fluids, using over-the-counter medications to relieve mild symptoms and only seeking medical attention for severe problems.
Interestingly, an accompanying editorial cited prebiotics and probiotics as non-antimicrobial measures to beat traveler’s diarrhea. Taking a multi-strain probiotic, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic or EndoMune Advanced Junior (for kids), at least two days before going on a long-distance trip can boost your immune system and maintain the natural balance of bacteria in your gut.
Should you need an antibiotic for any reason, please take a probiotic as well. Follow a two-hour gap between taking an antibiotic and probiotic, as this will reduce the likelihood that the drug will deplete the live, beneficial bacteria before they’ve had a chance to do their work.