The researchers examined the antibiotic use of approximately 36,000 women ages 20 and older. Women reported whether they had ever taken antibiotics, and if so, whether it was for less than 15 days, for 15 days to two months, or for more than two months.
The study analyzed the data over eight years and discovered that women 60 years and older who took antibiotics for two months or longer (often needed to treat more persistent bacterial infections, like Lyme disease) were 32% likelier to develop cardiovascular disease than those who didn’t; and women aged 40 to 59 who took antibiotics for this same amount of time had a 28% increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
While we need more research to confirm these findings, researchers posit that the relationship between antibiotic use and cardiovascular disease has to do with how antibiotics alter the makeup of the microbiome, decreasing good bacteria and making you vulnerable to disease-causing bacteria or viruses.
Lead study researcher and director of the Tulane University Obesity Research Centre, Lu Qui said in a statement, “Antibiotic use is the most critical factor in altering the balance of microorganisms in the gut. Previous studies have shown a link between alterations in the microbiotic environment of the gut and inflammation and narrowing of the blood vessels, stroke, and heart disease.”
In light of this potential link, the study’s authors suggest taking antibiotics only when necessary. Before taking antibiotics, chat with your doctor about the prescribed antibiotic’s effectiveness for your illness and whether it’s necessary to fight off the infection.
If you must take antibiotics, consider how to simultaneously support your gut health and help your body fight off infection. Besides eating a nutritious diet, you can take a probiotic to replenish some of the good gut bacteria that your antibiotics destroy. Make sure to separate them by a few hours or your probiotic won’t be as effective. Antibiotics can also negatively affect your mitochondria, which are vital for our energy levels and overall health. Functional medicine doctors recommend taking B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc while on antibiotics, all of which support the healthy functioning of your mitochondria.
Now if you do need antibiotics in the future, know that they’re necessary at times, plus you can do much to counter their potentially negative effects.