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Probiotics vs Antibiotics – what’s the difference?

One of the questions that we get asked here at Baks is what’s the difference between probiotics and antibiotics?

This blog post will attempt to define it for you, highlight the importance of both and help to allow you to make you own informed decisions regarding the pair of them.


Scientists first found antibiotics in the 1940s and 50s. Since then, antibiotics have saved millions of lives.

What are they used for?

Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent some types of bacterial infection. They kill bacteria or prevent them from reproducing and spreading.

Antibiotics aren’t effective against viral infections. This includes the common cold, flu, most coughs and sore throats.

How do they work?

Antibiotics work by blocking vital processes in bacteria. They kill the bacteria or stop it from spreading. This helps the body’s natural immune system to fight the infection. There are many types of antibiotics. They work against different types of bacteria.

Some antibiotics affect a wide range of bacteria. They are called broad spectrum antibiotics (eg, amoxicillin and gentamicin).

Some antibiotics affect only a few types of bacteria. They are narrow spectrum antibiotics (eg, penicillin).

There are many types of antibiotics. Not all of them work in the same way. For instance, penicillin destroys bacterial cell walls. Other antibiotics can affect the way the cell works.

The importance of finishing the treatment

It’s essential to finish taking your antibiotics, even if you feel better. You should only do differently if your healthcare professional tells you to. If you stop taking your course of antibiotics early, bacteria can become resistant to it.

After Antibiotic Treatment

Remember, in taking antibiotics to help fight an infection which is doing you harm, you are also killing a lot of the useful bacteria that normally lives within us.

In order to minimise the long term negative effects of having antibiotic treatment, it’s a good idea to take a course of probiotics after having finished your antibiotics.

There are even probiotics what you can take whilst you’re having antibiotics, which purport to maintain your gut microflora and so help reduce the negative effects of wiping out the good bacteria in our bodies.


What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are intended to have health benefits when consumed or applied to the body. They can be found in yogurt and other fermented foods, dietary supplements, and beauty products.

Are they harmful?

Although people often think of bacteria and other microorganisms as harmful “germs,” many are actually helpful. Some bacteria help digest food, destroy disease-causing cells, or produce vitamins. Many of the microorganisms in probiotic products are the same as or similar to microorganisms that naturally live in our bodies.

How might probiotics work?

Probiotics may have a variety of effects in the body, and different probiotics may act in different ways.

Probiotics might:

  • Help your body maintain a healthy community of microorganisms or help your body’s community of microorganisms return to a healthy condition after being disturbed
  • Produce substances that have desirable effects
  • Influence your body’s immune response

The Gut Microbiome

About the Gut Microbiome

The community of microorganisms that lives on us and within us is called the “microbiome,” and it’s a hot topic for research.

The Human Microbiome Project, supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 2007 to 2016, played a key role in this research by mapping the normal bacteria that live in and on the healthy human body.

With this understanding of a normal microbiome as the basis, researchers around the world are now exploring the links between changes in the microbiome and various diseases.

They’re also developing new therapeutic approaches designed to modify the microbiome to treat disease and support health.

Researchers are studying the interactions between components of food and microorganisms in the digestive tract.

The focus is on the ways in which diet-microbiome interactions may lead to the production of substances with beneficial health effects.

Importance of a healthy gut microbiome

Currently, the mechanisms of interactions or of defense against potential pathogens are often described at the molecular level. Moreover, the current understanding is that some gut bacteria may also achieve this goal by communicating with human cells and mostly by promoting immune interactions

A large number of recent papers and reviews have covered different aspects of the microbiome and its potential role in human health, including the early life, but also specific diseases, such as cardiometabolic disorders, inflammatory bowel diseases, neuropsychiatric diseases and cancer.


We all have choices in our lives about what we do with our own bodies. Now, we hope that if you’re unfortunate enough to need a course of antibiotics, you will now know not only how important it is to actually finish the course, but you will also have a lot of the information that you need to make an informed decision about what to do after you have finished you course.

Further help

If you feel you need to speak to someone about any gut disturbances, then your first port of call should always be your GP, or if more urgent (in the case of acute abdominal pain), then your local A&E department.

If you wish you may also contact a dietician, who may be able to help you assess your diet, as well as your social and environmental habits. They will likely also recommend some changes which may include different foods, drinks and supplements, which will likely have probiotic and prebiotic characteristics.

Can we help you?

If you have seen your doctor and been checked out medically, yet still suffer with gut dysfunction, we may be able to help. Osteopathy and Craniosacral Therapy have been shown to have positive impact on those suffering with irritable bowel syndrome.

If you would like to see if we can help, then please book an appointment.

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