Can Antibiotics Cause Diarrhea?


Yes, antibiotics can indeed cause diarrhea as a side effect. This type of diarrhea is often referred to as “antibiotic-associated diarrhea” or “antibiotic-associated colitis.” The use of antibiotics can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to an overgrowth of certain bacteria, particularly a bacterium called Clostridium difficile (C. difficile).

C. difficile overgrowth can lead to a condition called “Clostridium difficile infection” (CDI), which can cause symptoms ranging from mild diarrhea to severe inflammation of the colon (colitis). The symptoms can include frequent and watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and in severe cases, blood or mucus in the stool.

Not all antibiotics have the same likelihood of causing antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Some antibiotics are more likely to disrupt the gut flora and increase the risk of C. difficile infection. However, any antibiotic has the potential to disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut and possibly lead to diarrhea.

To help prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea, doctors may recommend:

  • Probiotics: Taking probiotics (supplements containing beneficial bacteria) alongside antibiotics might help maintain a healthier balance of gut bacteria.
  • Hydration: Drinking plenty of fluids can help prevent dehydration due to diarrhea.
  • Avoiding Antidiarrheal Medications: In cases of mild diarrhea, doctors often advise against using over-the-counter antidiarrheal medications, as they might prolong the infection by preventing the elimination of harmful bacteria.
  • Completing the Full Course of Antibiotics: It’s important to take the entire prescribed course of antibiotics even if you start feeling better, as stopping too early could allow harmful bacteria to survive and lead to complications.

If you experience persistent diarrhea or any concerning symptoms while taking antibiotics, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider. They can help determine whether the diarrhea is a side effect of the antibiotics or potentially a more serious condition, and provide appropriate guidance and treatment.

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