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Do Antibiotics Cause Constipation?


You are not alone if you have been told that antibiotics cause constipation. Antibiotics have always been considered a “hard” drug by the majority of people around the world. The misconception around antibiotics has led to their misuse and antibiotic resistance globally. But many of these misconceptions are just myths. One such common concern is constipation arising from antibiotics. So, do you think antibiotics cause constipation, and that is why you avoid taking them? Keep reading to know if antibiotics cause constipation or not.

Before we step into further details about antibiotics and gut health, let us tell you that antibiotics rarely cause constipation.

What are Antibiotics?

Antibiotics literally translate to against (anti) life (biotic). So, antibiotics are medicines against life. Medicinally, drugs that stop the growth or kill bacteria are known as antibiotics. Don’t worry; they do not impact your health negatively (except for a few common side effects).

Antigens and pathogens often enter our bodies leading to several infections or diseases. Your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic or antiviral drug if the causative agents are bacteria or viruses. They help restrict the activity by altering the structure or killing the bacteria.

Antibiotics act on a bacterial specie over a particular course of time. You cannot take the same antibiotic for all kinds of antibiotic diseases. You must take your antibiotic dose at the same time as prescribed by the doctor. You may still experience some changes in your GI physiology when taking antibiotics. Do not worry, as a few side effects are normal and are mentioned on antibiotic packaging.


Antibiotics and Gut Health

So, what are the side effects of antibiotics on your gut health?

Parents often get worried when their children experience an upset stomach on taking medication. They typically stop the treatment because they believe it harms their child’s health. However, it is not so. Children and adults may experience the side effects of antibiotics alike.

Some of the side effects of antibiotics include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Indigestion
  • Bloating or feeling full
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cramping

Why do Antibiotics Disturb the Gut?

Antibiotics may upset your stomach because they disturb the microbiome in the gut. The microbiome comprises between 200 and 500 species of microorganisms in the body. These microorganisms do not harm you. Instead, they contribute to the normal functioning of the body and protect you from bacterial infections. These microbes may also aid digestion and regulate different immunity types in a body.

When you start taking antibiotics, they kill the bacteria causing the disease. Meanwhile, they may also kill good bacteria that live in our gut and regulate body function. The massacre of microbes in the gut causes an imbalance in the microbiome. Thus, the disturbance in the normal content of the gut leads to symptoms like diarrhea and upset stomach.

Moreover, gut disturbances may also impact your body’s ability to absorb certain minerals like magnesium. Magnesium plays a major role in regulating gut motility. Thus, magnesium deficiency may also restrict gut movement and digestion, leading to constipation. Constipation occurs in rare cases and is more common in older people than children and young adults.

However, there is nothing to worry about if you or your child is facing diarrhea after antibiotic intake. Diarrhea and stomach pain typically goes away in 7 days. But, if it continues, you can consult your physician.


How to Avoid Diarrhea when Taking Antibiotics?

As diarrhea is associated with the gut disturbance caused by antibiotics, you might not always be able to prevent it. But you can ease the condition by taking probiotics and staying hydrated. Antibiotics and probiotics should go hand in hand if you suffer from diarrhea. However, there is no evidence of complete relief from diarrhea by probiotics.

How to Manage Gut Health when Taking Antibiotics?

The most important element is to take care of your diet when you take antibiotics. That does not mean taking a glass of milk with every pill. Remember that taking antibiotics with fruit juices and milk can impact absorption. You can start a healthy diet before starting your antibiotic course. Add prebiotics to your diet before taking antibiotics, followed by probiotics in case you get diarrhea. Many people also use prebiotics and probiotics as prebiotics create a favorable environment to live and grow. You can take prebiotic supplements or choose natural sources like fruits, vegetables, seeds, grains, legumes, and fermented foods.

The Bottom Line

Antibiotics are often thought to be associated with causing constipation. However, studies show that diarrhea and stomachache are more common side effects of antibiotics than constipation. Many children and young adults face diarrhea resulting from antibiotic intake. A few people may also complain of constipation. These signs and symptoms arise as a result of gut microbiome disturbance due to antibiotic activity. Antibiotics may also kill 30% of the healthy gut bacteria besides disease-causing microbes. Depending on the condition, it is better to add fiber to your diet, like Psyllium Husk, in case of constipation. On the other hand, prebiotics and probiotics may seem helpful in diarrhea.


What helps constipation when taking antibiotics?

Antibiotic intake may often lead to diarrhea or constipation in some cases. The best way is to increase your fiber intake and fluid intake, like apple juice to improve bowel movement if you have constipation. You may also take an oral laxative in case of serious complications.

Do antibiotics affect bowel movements?

Around twenty percent of people complain of diarrhea after taking antibiotics. Antibiotic-associated diarrhea typically goes away on its own and does not require medication. Doctors suggest staying hydrated and taking probiotics to keep your gut healthy. You may also take prebiotics to create a suitable environment for the gut bacteria to survive and grow.

How long does constipation last after antibiotics?

While constipation is not common in most children and young adults, it can take as long as six months for your gut microbiome to get back to normal. However, if you have diarrhea when taking antibiotics, it usually goes away within seven days when you stop taking antibiotics.

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