3 Natural Ways to Reduce Antibiotic Side Effects

Milk thistle capsules, probiotic supplement tablet and capsules, tea, and yogurt

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

If you've got a bacterial infection, taking a course of antibiotics should help restore you to health. But these powerful drugs (which include penicillin, amoxicillin, and tetracycline, to name a few) can cause some unpleasant side effects, such as yeast overgrowth and gastrointestinal trouble (diarrhea, constipation, or nausea).

The first step in protecting yourself from these adverse effects is to avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics. Since antibiotics can only treat bacterial infections (like strep throat, urinary tract infections, and severe sinus infections), they won't be effective against viral infections that cause the common cold, flu, or bronchitis.

In addition to the risk of unnecessary side effects, inappropriate use of antibiotics can promote the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and leave you vulnerable to incurable infections later on.

If you find yourself in need of antibiotics, however, you might want to consider ways to reduce your risk of side effects.

natural remedies for antibiotic side effects

Verywell / Emily Roberts

Take a Probiotic Supplement

Antibiotics don't just kill the bacteria causing your sickness. They also wipe out beneficial bacteria that contribute to a healthy digestive system.

Taking a probiotic supplement can help prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea, according to research in American Family Physician. The benefit is greatest when the probiotics are started within 72 hours of starting antibiotic therapy.

Probiotics, also found in fermented foods like yogurt and kefir, can help stave off yeast infections as well.

Sip Herbal Tea

If you experience nausea while taking antibiotics, try sipping ginger tea to soothe your stomach. Loose stools may be relieved by drinking raspberry leaf tea. On the other hand, avoid black tea which is high in caffeine and may increase antibiotic-associated diarrhea as well as the risk of nausea and diarrhea.

Take Milk Thistle

Taking antibiotics can tax your liver, which is responsible for breaking down the medications you ingest. The herb milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is believed to have protective antioxidant effects on the liver.

Milk thistle is available in most drug stores and is sold as an oral capsule, tablet, powder, and liquid extract. While potentially beneficial to the liver, milk thistle may cause stomach upset and should be avoided if you're already struggling with gastrointestinal symptoms.

Milk thistle can stimulate estrogen production and should be avoided if you have breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids.

Milk thistle capsules

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Other Considerations

To reduce your risk of bacterial infections and lower your chances of having to use antibiotics, strengthen your immune system by following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, and managing your stress with the help of relaxation techniques.

If you're considering the use of complementary remedies after antibiotic use, make sure to consult your physician first. Self-treating any condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

If you are on antibiotics, the one thing you should never do is decrease the dosage to reduce the side effects. Doing so will only increase the risk of antibiotic resistance, a serious problem both here in the United States and around the world.

If you feel the side effects are intolerable, call your doctor as soon as possible. There may be other options available that you can better tolerate.

A Word From Verywell

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label.

Also, keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

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Article Sources
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  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Be antibiotics aware: smart use, best care. Updated November 18, 2019.

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  5. Cleveland Clinic. How to prevent diarrhea while you take antibiotics. Updated January 24, 2020.

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  7. Harvard Medical School Harvard Health Publishing. How to boost your immune system. Updated July 16, 2018.