Should you take an antibiotic while you are on a benzodiazepine or in benzo withdrawal? Of course, if you need one! Ask your doctor to make sure that antibiotic treatment is necessary and that the correct antibiotic is prescribed. Here are some thoughts about antibiotic use during benzo withdrawal.

Fluoroquinolone antibiotic use while taking a benzodiazepine is dangerous. Fluoroquinolones like Cirpo, Levaquin, Floxin, etc., block the benzodiazepine from the intended receptors, causing a cold turkey reaction. Even people not taking a benzo need to be cautious about this family of antibiotics as they can damage the nervous system and cause a reaction known as being floxed. The symptoms are like benzo withdrawal, and it takes time to recover.

Another antibiotic that can create havoc for someone on a benzodiazepine or healing from a benzodiazepine injury is Metronidazole, more commonly known by the brand name Flagyl. Damage from this antibiotic can create similar symptoms to being floxed.

Even the most commonly used antibiotics, such as penicillin, azithromycin, Keflex, etc., can rev up benzo withdrawal symptoms. It’s unknown if the increase in symptoms has to do with GABA receptors, changes to the gut microbiome (antibiotics can kill thirty to fifty percent of the gut microbiome), or some other mechanism(s) in the body.

Doctors often suggest taking a probiotic with an antibiotic or after antibiotic treatment to help restore the gut microbiome. However, as more information about the gut microbiome is known, the best suggestion is to avoid probiotic use during antibioitc treatment and for a few months after. The reason is that gut bacteria “fight” with the non-native bacteria found in the probiotic instead of spending energy on repairing and repopulating, which is what is most needed after antibiotic damage. Probiotics, it should be noted, don’t usually colonize in the gut. They travel through the digestive tract and end up in the toilet. They offer some benefits while visiting: excreting beneficial short-chain fatty acids. But they do little to increase the number of good bacteria; they don’t colonize in the gut.

Prebiotics, on the other hand, help colonize good bacteria. That increase means an increase in short-chain fatty acids, an increase in health. Doctors familiar with gut microbiome health now suggest taking a prebiotic during and after antibiotic treatment instead of a probiotic.

You can minimize a possible wave of symptoms from taking an antibiotic by eating a plant-based diet rich in complex carbohydrates, staying well hydrated, and avoiding worrying about benzo symptoms. We can cause an increase in benzo withdrawal symptoms if we allow our anxiety about taking an antibiotic get the best of us.

Probiotic supplements can rev up some people in withdrawal regardless if they are taking an antibiotic or not. It may be best to avoid probiotic supplements in general and focus on eating probiotic foods such as plant-based yogurt, fermented vegetables, or juice. Start with a tiny serving if you aren’t sure how you will react to a probiotic food. We don’t need large servings to reap their rewards.

Prebiotics are in plant fiber. Eating a wide variety of plant food ensures our gut microbiome receives what it needs to help us heal and remain healthy (boost immune function, bone health, brain, and nervous system function, hormone, neurotransmitter production, etc.). Apples, whole oats, bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, chicory root, garlic, and dandelion greens make the list of top prebiotic foods. Prebiotic supplements are available and usually do not cause a wave of benzo withdrawal symptoms. Benefiber is a commonly used brand for people who are not gluten sensitive. Acacia Senegal, Psyllium husks, and inulin are gluten-free alternatives. If you want to try a prebiotic, start with small amounts and work your way up from there.

Some people worry and obsess over the thought of having to take an antibiotic in the future. Worrying about something that has yet to happen puts the nervous system into a protect state of sympathetic fight or flight or a parasympathetic dorsal vagal freeze. The protect state is not conducive to deep healing. We do better to avoid future tripping and stay in the present, reminding ourselves that we are safe and healing. The reminder that we are safe helps our nervous system shift into the parasympathetic ventral vagal connect state, where deep healing is more likely.

If antibiotic use becomes necessary, we can be confident that we know the right things to do to ensure that our nervous system stays as calm as possible during treatment and after. Until that time, we focus on the present and practice excellent self care: eat right, move enough, stress less, and love well. These are the four cornerstones of well-being.


Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash