Specialising in the human experience of Living with prostate cancer – warts and all

Food for Thought: Antibiotics V Probiotics

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Those of us with cancer usually have a weakened immune system due to the treatment we are receiving.  A weakened immune system leaves us more susceptible to infection.

In my case, this led to getting double pneumonia and pleurisy back in March from which I almost died.  When it became complicated with a blocked small bowel, I was not expected to survive more than a couple of days.  Somehow, I did … but at a cost!

In hospital, they had me on an intravenous infusion of antibiotics followed by a course of antibiotic tablets.  Between March and June, I was on antibiotic treatment for more than a total of eight weeks.


Antibiotics, by design, kill bacteria … all bacteria … not just the pneumonia but also the good bacteria – or flora – needed to digest food.  As a result, I lost about five kilos in weight.  I thought it was the wasting away disease we see in people just before they die.  However, it was because my food was not being properly digested.  The District Nurse came to the rescue and educated me about probiotics.


Probiotics are live microorganisms – such as bacteria, yeasts and fungi – which in adequate amounts may have health benefits. Studies have shown they can improve digestion, help protect against disease and enhance immune function.

  • Strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium bacteria are the most commonly used probiotics as they can survive the passage to the gut.
  • Probiotics are most widely available as dietary supplements in tablet, capsule and powder forms or as a component in yoghurts and fermented dairy drinks (Yakult).
  • Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that can increase the activity of select “good” bacteria. Prebiotics naturally occur in bananas, asparagus, leeks, onions, garlic, chicory and wholegrains like wheat, rye, dark chocolate, barley and oats. Savvy marketers are spruiking their benefit in foods from breads to infant formulas

For healthy people, probiotics aren’t necessary, but eating probiotic foods like yoghurt aren’t going to hurt and are generally well tolerated.  Probiotics are not advised for people with severe illnesses or who are immunocompromised.

Popular opinion

When CHOICE asked people about probiotic use, positive messages abounded: “Yakult, every day. No ill effects. Actually think they are part of me beating Crohns”. Another said he used kefir (an eastern European probiotic drink) and “never had any ill effects, just the opposite in fact!”. One fan of Inner Health Plus wrote: “It helps my partner who suffers with MS and often has problems with candida (a yeast) overload in his throat and a bloated tum”, while another commented: “I also have an irritable bowel and a bloated tummy at the best of times… It helps but has not solved the problem completely”.

Immune System

I know I harp on about looking after my immune system but that is all I have to help my cause.  With a depleted ‘good bacteria count’, that is going to be all the harder to improve.  Whilst I use Lactoferrin as an immune booster, using probiotics is hoped to make things easier.  They say it takes at least a month before you can determine if they are helping.  So, here’s hoping!

Written by Greg Naylor

15 August 2012 at 12:00 am

One Response

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  1. We are singing from the same hymnal.
    There is SOooooooo much evidence that your gut does far more than process food.
    It is the head-waters of your entire immune system..
    The other point to consider, is that broad-spectrum Anti-Oxidants like Resveratrol and OPC, have a dramatic effect on your immune system, and quite bluntly, if one is in trouble, and you are not taking AO’s, then your not trying hard enough. IMHO, you cannot get sufficient concentrations of AO’s from food alone.
    We all need to understand that our bodies are an intricate machine, where everything is dependent on complete balance.. starting with the gut..
    A crook gut can lead to most ailments including depression…


    15 August 2012 at 1:13 pm

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