Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), most notably including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is a serious digestive condition for which we are only beginning to understand the underlying causes. Dysbiosis, or an imbalance of the gut microbes, is one relatively recent factor found to contribute to the development of IBD. One major contributor to the development of dysbiosis is antibiotic use.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology concluded, “Subjects diagnosed with IBD were more likely to have been prescribed antibiotics 2–5 years before their diagnosis. This possibly implicates antibiotic use as a predisposing factor in [the cause of] IBD.”

Antibiotic use alters the gut flora, with some studies finding the alteration to last months or even years after discontinuation of the antibiotic. IBD is known to involve a decrease in gut flora diversity and an increase in bacteria that penetrate the protective lining of the intestine. Thus, the interest of researchers in the role of antibiotic use as a possible cause of IBD is well supported.

In the study, involving over 24,000 individuals (more than 2,000 diagnosed with IBD),  it was found that the risk of developing IBD 2–5 years after antibiotic use increased as the number of antibiotic uses increased. In other words, if a person used antibiotics 3 times, they had a greater risk of IBD than those who used antibiotics only once.  

Antibiotic use is obviously necessary for certain conditions (and often unnecessary for others). Supporting the ensuing gut imbalance that follows antibiotic use with probiotics (beneficial gut bacteria) is recommended. Talk to your doctor about it.

People with IBD face a long journey of healing during which the optimization of gut function is very important. Addressing gut imbalance is vital in these folks.