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Antibiotics – uses, health risks, and side effects at

Tuesday, August 14, 2018 by

Antibiotics broadly refer to medications that are designed to injure or kill bacteria. Currently, antibiotics are one of the most heavily prescribed medicines, with over 100 types made for infections that range from mild to severely life-threatening. For the most part, antibiotics only treat bacterial infections, making it ineffective against conditions like the common cold (which is caused by a virus) and ringworms (a fungal infection).

Antibiotics are administered in different ways:

  • Oral antibiotics come in tablets, capsules, or liquids and are used for mild to moderate infections
  • Topical antibiotics are mainly used to treat skin infections
  • Injections are given through a drip and are used for more serious infections

In conventional medicine, healthcare professionals will suggest finishing a prescribed round of antibiotics. This is to reduce the likelihood of a bacteria to be resistant to the antibiotic. In general, antibiotics are grouped based on how they work, with the main types including:

  • Penicillin
  • Cephalosporins
  • Tetracyclines
  • Aminoglycosides
  • Macrolides
  • Clindamycin
  • Sulfonamides and trimethoprim
  • Metronidazole and tinidazole
  • Quinolones
  • Nitrofurantoin

There are also antibiotics that are designed to treat specific infections – usually those that uncommon.

Known health risks or side effects of antibiotics

As with all types of medications, using antibiotics can also bring about side effects. These can range from mild to intolerable, with certain cases leading to long-term damage and potentially life-threatening reactions. Each antibiotic type has its unique side effects, but for the most part, these are the common side effects that are seen with antibiotic use.

  • Rash
  • Diarrhea (especially the excretion of soft stools)
  • Upset stomach
  • Fungal infections such as thrush

However, if a person is experiencing the following symptoms after taking antibiotics, he should contact his healthcare provider.

  • A severe allergic reaction that makes breathing difficult
  • Bloody diarrhea and stomach cramps
  • A vaginal yeast infection accompanied by white discharge and itching
  • The presence of mouth sores or white patches in the mouth and tongue

A person who has a severe allergic reaction to antibiotics will experience:

  • Shortness of breath and wheezing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling lightheaded and dizzy
  • Increased heart rate
  • Swelling of the face, lips, or tongue which may make breathing difficult
  • Shock

List of organs that might be affected by antibiotics

The adverse effects of broad-spectrum antibiotics (those that are prescribed to kill a variety of bacteria) are usually seen in the digestive system, especially in the gut microbiome. As the medication makes its way into the digestive tract, it kills both beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut. The former, unfortunately, is susceptible to the effects of antibiotics, which can cause them to die out, leaving highly resistant pathogens such as Clostridium difficile to overrun the gut microbiome and cause an imbalance.

Antibiotic use can also produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the body. In particular, ROS is cytotoxic, which makes a person more vulnerable during an infection.

Food items or nutrients that have similar effects to antibiotics

Many food items have similar effects to those of antibiotics, including:

  • Garlic – The herb is effective against salmonella and E. coli, and it has been studied for use against multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.
  • Honey – A food that has long been known to contain antibacterial properties, as well as treat wounds.
  • Ginger – Multiple studies can attest to ginger’s ability to treat many strains of bacteria.
  • Echinacea – The flowers have been used to treat wounds and infections, thanks to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Goldenseal – Studies have shown that goldenseal can prevent bacterial infections, including MRSA.
  • Clove – A recent study suggests that clove contains antibacterial properties, even against E. coli.
  • Oregano – Its essential oil is used as a natural antibiotic.

Treatment and management options for the side effects of antibiotics

To manage symptoms related to antibiotic use, here are some ways to help your system while you’re on it.

  • Probiotic supplements – restores balance in the gut microbiota to prevent an upset stomach
  • Herbal tea – soothes the digestive system and relieves yeast infections
  • Milk thistle – protects the liver from the harmful effects of antibiotic use

Where to learn more


Antibiotics are medications that are designed to injure or kill bacteria.

Antibiotics are one of the most heavily prescribed medicines.

Antibiotics only treat disease caused by bacteria, making it ineffective against viral and fungal infections.

Antibiotics can also bring about side effects that range from mild to intolerable.

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