Cipro is a powerful antibiotic that is prescribed to defeat certain types of bacterial infections. Because Cipro is active against a wide range of bacteria, it can also impact the helpful bacteria that live in the human digestive and gastrointestinal tracts. Some doctors advise patients taking Cipro to also use probiotic supplements or eat foods that can help replace these important bacteria during and after treatment.
Formally known as ciprofloxacin, Cipro is a member of the fluoroquinolone group of antibacterial drugs. This group of medications was first developed to defeat bacterial infections that had not been cured by other antibiotics. The fluoroquinolone pharmaceuticals include Levaquin, Noroxin, Cipro and several other medicines with similar mechanisms of action and bacterial targets. The most common regimens of Cipro treatment last less than 14 days, though certain infections can require up to two months.
Cipro's Broad Spectrum
Cipro may be used to treat sinus, gastrointestinal, bone, urinary tract and other types of infections. Cipro is a "broad spectrum" antibiotic, active against a wide range of bacterial species. This can make Cipro useful if a patient is fighting more than one infection at a time. However, it means that Cipro affects many bacteria in the body in addition to the targeted micro-organism causing illness, including bacteria that are necessary for good health.
Digestive Tract Bacteria
The human gastrointestinal tract hosts hundreds of bacterial species, many of which assist in the digestion of food, produce vitamins, attack harmful micro-organisms and perform other functions still being discovered. Cipro can interfere with these bacteria, killing some species and unsettling the dynamic balance that normally exists between them. This can lead to nausea, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms. In serious cases, one or several bacterial species can "overgrow" if competing bacteria are too weakened by an antibiotic to keep neighboring microbes in check. If severe, this can cause a medical emergency and require hospitalization.
Replenishing Good Bacteria with Probiotics
Probiotics are live bacteria that support or replenish the bacteria normally located in the gastrointestinal tract. Probiotics can be ingested as supplements, in capsule or pill form, or as part of a normal food, such as yogurt or certain milk and soy products, among others. The National Institutes of Health notes that there is some scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of probiotics in reducing the duration of certain gastrointestinal infections and reducing symptom intensity.
Probiotics with Antibiotics
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, several studies indicate that certain probiotic strains can be effective in treating antibiotic-related diarrhea, which can occur during and after treatment with medications such as Cipro. Variants of Lactobacillus and S. boulardi probiotics had the most consistent positive results, though there are dozens of options. Wait several hours after an antibiotic dose before taking a probiotic, to avoid diminishing the potency of either. Speak with your physician or other medical expert regarding the advisability of a probiotic regimen, and carefully study the potential side effects of both antibiotic medications and any probiotics you may take.