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Did Antibiotics Cause My IBS?

I wrote an article a while back discussing my theory on how I contracted irritable bowel syndrome. I claimed that it is possible that I am a victim of post-infectious IBS, assuming my food poisoning experience in 2009 was the start of it all. In that article, I explained how horrible the food poisoning experience was, and that I later learned I’d developed a bacterial infection due to the overgrowth of a nasty bacteria called Helicobacter Pylori. At the time, my doctor prescribed antibiotics for me to take to get rid of the infection, which I then followed those instructions without any hesitation because I trusted the doctor’s professional advice. However, after doing more research on antibiotics and hearing theories from other IBS sufferers, I have come to yet another theory that it is quite possible that the antibiotics I took in the past could have something to do with the severity of my condition today. Let me explain why I have come to this conclusion…

Microbiome and dysbiosis

First off, it is important to note that our microbiomes are responsible for the proper functioning of our body and overall health, especially the bacterial colonies located in our gastrointestinal tract. Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease states that, “In particular, the bacterial species residing within the mucus layer of the colon, either through direct contact with host cells, or through indirect communication via bacterial metabolites, may influence whether host cellular homeostasis is maintained or whether inflammatory mechanisms are triggered.”1 In other words, the bacteria in your gut, whether good or bad, determines if you will suffer from inflammation or experience a healthy gut for the moment, assuming there is a natural balance in your microbiome.

Antibiotics are used to treat and/or destroy bacterial infections. In the past, that was the basic and only understanding I had about this kind of medication. When I was given antibiotics to treat my bacterial infection, I never thought about how it actually worked or the potential damages and side effects it could have caused. What I later learned about antibiotics is that they don’t only kill or treat the bad bacteria in your system, but they also negatively affect the good bacteria as well.2 Thus, the natural order of the bacteria in your gut becomes unbalanced (also known as dysbiosis), and when there is an unbalance, a world of problems can arise.

Can antibiotics lead to intestinal disorders?

There have been a number of research studies published that provide evidence that dysbiosis of the gut can lead to intestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease. According to the World Class Journal of Gastroenterology, “In the last decade, the gut microbiota has provided support to the concept that a disturbed intestinal ecology could promote development and maintenance of symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)” and “probiotics appear (to be) an attractive option in terms of both efficacy and safety, while prebiotics, synbiotics and antibiotics still need formation.”3 Even though there isn’t enough conclusive evidence that proves antibiotics causes IBS, one can infer that because antibiotics kill off some of the good bacteria as well as the bad, thus resulting in dysbiosis, it has the potential to make us susceptible to other infections and intestinal disorders. In hindsight, many of us were taught to believe that antibiotics was supposed to do the opposite.

I’m not an expert in the medical field, nor do I claim to be. I’m also neither discrediting medical professionals nor certain antibiotics that have been proven time and time again to help patients. Nevertheless, through my own experience and by doing more research, more questions are being raised for me in terms of the actual source of my illness. Questions like: does taking antibiotics over any period of time eventually lead to IBS, or other health-concerning issues? If taking synthetic antibiotics can also damage the good bacteria in your gut, then why is it still being used to treat patients, and why not a safer alternative? When we’re given these as prescriptions, do we know the true motive behind it? Is it to really help us or make money off of big pharma or insurance companies? How knowledgeable are the doctors in the drugs they prescribe? Do they really have my best interest at heart?

The core of all these questions boils down to whether or not my health is, or ever was, taken seriously by medical experts. Unfortunately, only recently has there been studies showing that antibiotics actually do have a negative long-term effect. I just think it sucks that the “experts” thought they were safe enough to use to begin with, knowing that antibiotics are not targeted drugs and that there could be long-term negative side effects.

What do you think about the use of antibiotics and the possibility of them leading to severe post-infectious diseases? Comment below and share your stories.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Carding, et al. “Dysbiosis of the gut microbiota in disease” Microb Ecol. Health Dis. 2015; 26: 10.3402/mehd.v26.26191.
  2. Jandhyala, S.M. et al. “Role of the normal gut microbiota” World J. Gastroenterol. 2015 Aug 7; 21(29): 8787–8803.
  3. Distrutti, E. et al. “Gut microbiota role in irritable bowel syndrome: New therapeutic strategies” World J. Gastroenterol. 2016 Feb 21; 22(7): 2219–2241.

Comments

  • Mike
    3 months ago

    Reflux problems don’t really happen that often…(usually if I eat late, which doesn’t happen often). Problem is just that weird feeling or sometimes pain, above my belly button. My girlfriend told me, it could even be a mental problem, because I think about it a lot, which I know I shouldn’t because it just makes it worse. I checked your link and I have to say, I don’t exercise at all. I used to play soccer and since I had to stop a few years ago, problems in the summer began (nausea etc.). I sit most of my days, so it could even be that?

  • Marci Kallick moderator
    2 months ago

    @mike,
    I’m glad to hear the reflux doesn’t happen all that often. It sounds like you have a great grasp on some of the possible offending items that could be contributing to the reflux…eating late at night, sitting for long hours, not having daily exercise or movement. As for thinking about it too much…it’s completely understandable that you may be thinking about the pain because you are experiencing it. Telling yourself you shouldn’t think about it…is like me telling you not to think of a pink elephant. Did you just think of a pink elephant? Of course you did! Haha… Rather than saying, “I’m not going to think of this anymore”…perhaps gently acknowledge the thought, but try not to attach yourself to it. It’s the difference between accepting the thoughts as they come and letting them leave just as quickly versus attaching ourselves and going down the rabbit hole! Each time those thoughts pop in your head, you can notice it and continue back to your breath or whatever you were doing. Here is an article on overthinking you may find helpful.
    https://irritablebowelsyndrome.net/living/overthinking/
    Please check back in to let us know how you’re doing! 🙂

    ~Marci (IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team)

  • Mike
    3 months ago

    I am pretty young, 21 years old and I’ve been having acid reflux since highschool but the last 3 years during the summer it got pretty bad, I felt nauseous for more than a week, so I decided to visit my doctor (new doctor) and she gave me Controloc (since I am from Slovenia we use that, pretty much it lowers your acid etc.). I also got gastroscopy done, nothing major there just a little reddish lining (I think it’s called Gastiritis) so back to the point I had to use those medications for a month twice a day and while using that for a few weeks or so, I got consipated and slowly stopped taking them. With constipation and all the stress, bloating symptoms bowel pain and a lot of moving gas in my intestines occured. I went back to the doctor and her answer was, that I will have to be careful of what I eat. It’s been over a few months feeling like this every day and I have no idea what it is, it stresses me a lot.

    Ps. I also got checked for the bacteria. It was negative.

  • Marci Kallick moderator
    3 months ago

    @Mike,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I am sorry you’re having these issues. If you are still having gastric symptoms, it may make sense to see your doctor again (or a specialist if your regular doctor isn’t helpful). It sounds as though you are experiencing IBS symptoms in addition to reflux? As you are probably already aware, stress tends to aggravate IBS symptoms…so, if you are able to lower your stress levels through relaxation, exercise, and/or meditation you may find some relief. I’m including a link to an article on some natural remedies for symptoms you may find helpful. https://irritablebowelsyndrome.net/living/creating-bag-of-tricks/
    Please check back in and let us know how you’re doing.

    ~Marci

  • Mike
    3 months ago

    @marcikallick

    Reflux problems don’t really happen that often…(usually if I eat late, which doesn’t happen often). Problem is just that weird feeling or sometimes pain, above my belly button. My girlfriend told me, it could even be a mental problem, because I think about it a lot, which I know I shouldn’t because it just makes it worse. I checked your link and I have to say, I don’t exercise at all. I used to play soccer and since I had to stop a few years ago, problems in the summer began (nausea etc.). I sit most of my days, so it could even be that?

  • Afznas
    4 months ago

    Same situation i had in my past.
    Doctors are unaware about the use of antibiotics.
    I recovered after 5 year from ibs situation.
    I had inflammation in upper abdomen.
    They prescribed antibiotics for one months approx.
    Even my situation became worst.
    I had left the medication nd shifted my place to another location.
    It helped lot to me.
    Another doctor suggested to hve tab ibset nd tb menoctyl for 3 month once in a day.
    It cured my symptoms.
    I suggest to everyone, if they hve any abdomen problem…
    Have psylium husk in diet. Dont have food which produce acid. And use calcium hydroxide solution for inflammation.
    Use asafoetida in cooking food. Eat pappaya.

  • HessP moderator author
    4 months ago

    I’m glad to hear you have found relief, Afznas! Thank you so much for sharing your story and tips with the community. Stay strong and positive. – Hess, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team member

  • gocardz457
    5 months ago

    After taking Antibiotics twice this year for swollen lymph nodes I can say that each time I had an ibs flare up which made me call out of work several times. I do think you’re spot on with this article.

  • HessP moderator author
    5 months ago

    I’m so sorry to hear that you had that experience, gocardz457. I’m glad my article was able to resonate with you, and please know we’re always here for support. If you ever need extra tips on coping with your IBS at work, you may be interested in this info here: https://irritablebowelsyndrome.net/living/ibs-at-work/ . Wishing you lots of strength and thank you for being a part of our community.

    Best,
    Hess, Author and IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team Member)

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