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How can I Avoid Upset Stomach from Antibiotics?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Antibiotics are fantastic drugs — they can effectively kill bacteria and eliminate infections, but they do sometimes run the risk of producing negative side effects like upset and sore stomach. There are a number of ways to handle an upset stomach from antibiotics and these include choosing the type of antibiotic carefully, supplementing with live active cultures, and getting extra doctor care if upset stomach is severe.

The first thing that may help address upset stomach from antibiotics is the choice of medicine. Some antibiotics carry a much greater risk of causing stomach problems. Most of the drugs have this as a side effect, but in certain drugs, especially in groups like the macrolide class (erythromycin, clarithromycin, etc), chance of getting stomach problems like diarrhea tends to be greater. If people have had stomach problems with a particular antibiotic in the past, they can certainly tell doctors, and another drug with fewer stomach side effects might be selected instead. Alternately, some medications come in forms made with an enteric coating, which can help reduce stomach irritation.

It’s also very important to heed warning labels to prevent a high frequency of side effects. Any direction that a medication should be taken with food needs to be followed. Usually, this recommendation specifically targets stomach upset that may occur if the medicine is taken on an empty stomach. Consider a “take with food” suggestion seriously and follow the directions.

Another reason that people get upset stomach with antibiotics is because most of these drugs don’t discriminate between bad and beneficial bacteria. All humans have good bacteria in their gastrointestinal system that helps aid in digestion. As this is depleted by the antibiotic’s work, stomach upset can occur, and people most commonly get diarrhea. One method for preventing this is adding back beneficial bacteria by taking live active cultures. People could either take acidophilus or eat yogurt with live cultures. Not only may this aid in digestion, but it also can sometimes prevent yeast infections.

On the advice of doctors, people may also treat some of the symptoms of an upset stomach with over-the-counter medicines. Drugs that prevent diarrhea or stop nausea or heartburn could be appropriate. Patients should always seek advice before heading to a pharmacy for these drugs because some medicines may conflict with the antibiotics they're taking.

Occasionally, the upset stomach persists, and some severe side effects may impact gastrointestinal workings. If diarrhea or vomiting begins and does not stop or becomes severe, people should definitely contact their physicians. Seeing a doctor right away is also important if any stomach symptoms like vomiting blood, having black, tarry stools, or experiencing extreme stomach pain occur. These could suggest serious illnesses, like inflammation or sudden development of ulcers. In most cases, people should not stop taking an antibiotic unless advised to do so by a physician.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon992315 — On Aug 30, 2015

This is not a response to the article, but to the anonymous post No. 4. Your claim that antibiotics are extremely dangerous, not fantastic, is just as hyperbolic and misleading as the article you are trying to refute.

From a historical perspective, antibiotics are, indeed, fantastic. All the points you raise about antibiotic-resistant bacteria and about antibiotics upsetting the body's natural balance are valid and completely true. Yet when you say antibiotics are extremely dangerous, I have to disagree. You know what else is dangerous? Sepsis. And that is far more likely to kill you than antibiotics.

It is difficult to overstate the historical importance of antibiotics. Take the bubonic plague, which once wiped out a third of Europe's population, or syphilis, which was a once-rampant and incurable disease. Take botulism, anthrax, tuberculosis... the list could go on and on. The fact is, antibiotics treat infections that could otherwise be fatal. It was, along with vaccinations and sterilization before surgery, one of the most important advances in modern medicine.

Without antibiotics, even minor surgery would be a crapshoot. I'm not saying that antibiotics aren't overprescribed (they are) or that there is no such thing as antibiotic resistant bacteria (there are, most definitely), but antibiotics were an amazing advance in medical science, rendering many diseases that were once fatal into minor annoyances. It is very fashionable to dismiss antibiotics because of their negative effects, but please bear in mind the value of their positive effects as well.

By anon970853 — On Sep 21, 2014

Um, this is a very misleading article. there are countless studies providing proof that antibiotics are extremely dangerous drugs, not fantastic. You claimed they effectively kill bacteria and clear up infection, but that's like saying chemotherapy is the best option for cancer and is fantastic. In a way, they both disrupt their targeted environment by mostly being unable to control what they kill. This is the main reason they're both dangerous and should only be used if a100 percent life saving necessity.

Personally, as far as chemo goes, it as a treatment that should never be considered an option and whenever I receive a positive cancer reading, I'll absolutely reject chemo altogether, but that's another topic on its own. The reason I bring up chemo is because they're both linked to forms of worse side effects than benefits. They both kill the surrounding healthy inhabitants (chemo kills healthy cells and antibiotics kill healthy gut and surrounding area bacteria). Neither have nor ever will be able to control the population targeting – only the "bad" corrupting the environment allowing a worse spread of infection.

Antibiotics, alongside chemo, should only be taken if needed, not whenever. Sites such as this one promote bad information to those who don't fully look into studies available. The true risk of side effects comes with all unnatural treatment options (modern medicine/pills/drugs) which is why it's important to discuss which antibiotics you take if you should ever choose to put yourself in a position of danger by taking these courses of drugs. You also run the risk of allowing your system to get used to treatments, but these drugs are most famous for their adaptability, which risks treatment failure. This is a topic not explained by health professionals, so be sure to discuss all options with your family doctor/health care provider at the time of care before choosing antibiotics. There may be another way.

My last point, if I failed at drilling how dangerous this option is into your head, touches on my secondary warning. There has been a great deal of study on major breakouts involving a form of CER called NDM-1. It's pretty much antibiotic-resistant. There is one select very nasty bacteria called C. Diff. You hear about it as being the most popular form of resistant strains breaking out in such places as hospitals. At least one period every year is infected by this one strain in hospitals. It is caused by a bacteria that has built up resistance to antibiotics.

So please do your research or better yet, second guess the information sites offered by your own personal research. Explore treatment options with you doctor and think of these drugs as non-safe or in the same class as chemo. There are more cons than pros. Ask your pharmacist about the prevention of side effects that come along with taking drugs instead of self exploration on sites. Your pharmacist and GP doctor can help customize a personal plan to fit your needs, and always ask questions.

By anon152454 — On Feb 14, 2011

about the antibiotics being in your meat or dairy, all antibiotics used in animals have withdrawal dates, meaning that if a dairy cow is treated, her milk cannot be used for x number of days depending on the drug used. The same goes for those going to slaughter. There is a both meat and milk withdrawal for medications used in livestock.

By recapitulate — On Jan 17, 2011

@Catapult, long term use of antibiotics can also be a factor. I have a friend whose mother refuses to throw antibiotics away, and has some in her house from ten years ago. Not only are these pills not safe, continuing to take them when not necessary can challenge your digestion in ways it should not be challenged.

By Catapult — On Jan 15, 2011

One of the other causes of an increase in problems with antibiotics in recent years is the overuse of them, not only in prescriptions but in foods. Many animal products, dairy as well as meat, come from animals treated with antibiotics to help them grow and prevent disease. If you do have trouble with antibiotics, it might be a good idea to also look at the animal products in your diet and try to lessen your intake or even remove those which may come from factory farms that use antibiotics.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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