It’s no secret that most medications come with a long list of side effects, including both short-term and long-term risks. Long-term risks can be especially dangerous, because the extent may not be realized until long after you’ve stopped taking the medication. When it comes to antibiotics, one of the greatest risks you face is damage to gut bacteria.
Antibiotics And Bowel Cancer
Antibiotics have the power to wipe out the bacteria in the gut, to help remove bacteria that causes infections. The problem is, the medication also eliminates other, healthy bacteria. In 2014, researchers linked antibiotics to an 8-11% increased risk of developing colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer. This link stems from alterations to the gut microbiome, caused by antibiotic use.
New research published in the journal Gut, looked at data from more than 16,600 women ages 60 and older. Researchers found that women who had used antibiotics for two months or more were at an increased risk of developing colon polyps. Colon polyps are small masses of cells that can develop on the lining of the colon. Some are harmless, while others can be precursors to colorectal cancer.
Specifically, the study showed that the women who used the drugs for a total of at least two months in their 20’s and 30’s had a 36% increased risk of polyps compared to those who did not. Women who used antibiotics long-term in their 40’s and 50’s showed a 70% increased risk of polyps.
Researchers pointed out that antibiotics “fundamentally alter the gut microbiome by curbing the diversity and number of bacteria, and reducing the resistance to hostile bugs.” They also concluded that bacteria that may require treatment from antibiotics may also cause inflammation, which is another risk factor for the development of colon cancer.
Associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School Dr. Andrew Chan was the lead researcher on the study. He explained, “This suggests that alterations in the naturally occurring bacteria that live in one’s intestines caused by antibiotics might predispose individuals to colorectal cancer … More research needs to be done to understand the interaction between alterations in one’s gut bacteria and future risk of colorectal cancer.”
Protecting Your Colon Health And Your Gut Health
You might not realize it, but your gut health effects your entire body. Taking proper care of your gut can help protect your colon health. One study found that dried plums may help lower your risk of colon cancer by building your gut bacteria. Probiotic foods also work to maintain a happy, healthy gut. Add these foods to your diet to promote healthy gut bacteria:
- Green beans