Diversity in the Gut Microbiome

Many Medications Can Negatively Impact Your Gut Flora - Probiotics May Help
Restore Balance
By Natasha Trenev


Overprescribing medications has long been an issue. While opioids seem to be getting much of the press and attention and have been on TV lately, and rightfully so, antibiotics are high on this list, too. The use of prescription drugs has been growing all over the world. And too often it is too easy to get these prescriptions. Doctors seem to throw antibiotics out as the answer to almost everything. And in a world saturated with antibiotics, there is an increasing resistance to traditional therapeutic treatments.


This is just one part of the problem. While much has been written about the impact of antibiotics on the body, there is less research on the effects of non-antibiotic prescription drugs. Studies are starting to take a closer look at the effects of everyday medication on the body, and specifically the damage it may be causing to the gut. The key then will be to make sure that if you have to take these medications, you are making sure the gut is protected and kept healthy.


There are times when we have no choice and may need to be on certain medications. Doing all we can to protect our bodies and ourselves from potentially dangerous side effects is essential. This means we really need to understand what those potential side effects and hazards are.



Let’s start with the human body. It is made up of bacteria, both good and bad. The key, of course, is to have the good bacteria outweigh the bad. It is now estimated that more than 10,000 microbial species occupy the human ecosystem. This is known collectively as the gut microbiota (also known as the microbiome). Each human being has approximately 160 predominant species of bacteria in their gut, and this composition of gut microbiota is unique to each individual, just like our fingerprints.


Some of the bacteria in our bodies are pathogens that cause ill health and uncomfortable symptoms. Others are beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics, which provide health benefits. Probiotics are living organisms that can boost the immune system, aid digestion, and improve the absorption of food and nutrients. Healthy colonies of diverse probiotic species can outnumber unfriendly bacteria and can even create a physical barrier against unhealthy bacteria. When we take prescription and even over-the-counter medications, they can affect the balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in our gut and potentially lead us into an imbalanced state that puts us at risk of further health problems.


What is becoming obvious is that certain medications actually change the diversity of our gut, which can have a huge and far-reaching impact on our digestion, immunity and overall health. This gut diversity is essential to our health. Diet is also a major factor in determining which microbes exist in our guts and a Western diet that is high in fat and refined sugars and low in fiber is thought to reduce microbial diversity. It’s much more than just the old expression “we are what we eat.” What we eat and the medicine we put into our bodies can clearly have a negative impact on our digestion, immunity, and health in general.



Let’s examine several classes of drugs to see firsthand the side effects they have on the gut flora. Two classes of commonly prescribed drugs: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) disrupt the harmony of your intestinal tract. Both NSAIDs and PPIs are also sold over-the-counter and are very easily accessible.


Medications that we can get without much difficulty, and that we can overuse without much thought, can do major damage. The latest research from Dr. Emmanel Montassier in Nantes, France has shown that NSAIDs and PPIs were associated with an increase in specific gut bacteria that are often categorized as pathogens including Salmonella, Klebsiella and more. PPIs are prescribed for relief of acid reflux and the overproduction of stomach acid, but, in this same research study, they were shown to cause changes to the gut microbiota that have been shown previously to increase susceptibility to infections such as Clostridium difficile (C. diff). The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has noted that in the past several years the number of C. diff infections has increased with more severe disease and an increase in mortality rates. New strains are thought to produce worse toxins than before and it’s becoming a public health issue we cannot ignore.


Statins are yet another drug that has become commonplace and are used as a lipid-lowering medication. In fact, they are now the second most prescribed drug class in the United States. Yet, like many medications, they are not without their potential side effects. There have been adverse effects on some individuals, and studies have shown that statin therapy created gut dysbiosis (microbial imbalance or impaired microbiota) in mice. Statins may disturb the gut microbiota by inhibiting the growth of some potentially useful bacteria and allowing other bacteria to flourish, which can become superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics.


Clearly, some medications cannot be avoided, but the idea of balancing out or even preventing some of the side effects, if possible, should always be considered. Since researchers are uncovering evidence that probiotics may help restore health to the gastrointestinal tract, a probiotic supplement could offer relief to those suffering from these unintended side effects.



Studies have looked at antipsychotic medications, which were associated with a decrease in diversity and also weight gain. Thus anti-depressants, another common prescription and a sometimes well-needed medication, should be studied to see how they affect the gut microbiota and healthy bacteria in our bodies.


Metformin is a drug that lowers oral blood glucose and is one of the most widely prescribed medications for type 2 diabetes (T2D) patients. Yet almost a third of patients reported adverse gastrointestinal effects, including abdominal pain and diarrhea.


In addition to the variety of medications that we may need to use at one time or another; we are also exposed to toxins and antimicrobial substances every single day in our daily environment. Many are designed to reduce microbes (hand sanitizers, chlorine/fluoride treatments in the water we drink and bathe in, preservatives in the foods we eat and cosmetics we apply to our skin, etc.). All of these can wipe out both the good and the bad microflora that live on and in our bodies.


A diverse and balanced gut microbiota is so very important to human health and is key to an overall health strategy. Probiotics offer the opportunity to re-balance, counteract and rehab the damage caused by medicines we take every day, whether prescribed or over the counter.


Natren has a full range of probiotic products that provide a number of health benefits to help you achieve optimal health and well-being. As we mentioned above, there are times when we may need to be on certain medications, and research has indicated that probiotics may help balance out some of the negative side affects these drugs have on our bodies and especially our gut. What we put into our bodies is vital and should be carefully monitored. A healthy diet is essential, along with exercise, and including a strategic probiotic supplementation is the key to maintaining health & longevity, and also balancing out some of the unintended consequences of certain medications. We are what we eat...and drink...and take... Let’s be smart and make the best choices. Here’s to our good health.

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Natasha Trenevvisit www.natren.com


"We've known for a long time that antibiotics can negatively impact our gut flora, but we're just starting to learn how numerous other medications, both over the counter and prescriptions, can also disrupt our gut. It's more important than ever to consider a probiotic to help stabilize your gut, especially if you're taking medications that wipe out your good bacteria!"