Site icon The Nutrition Clinic for Digestive Health

Can Antibiotics Cause Constipation? Plus Constipation Relief Tips

Alarm clock and toilet paper on blue background. Can antibiotics cause constipation?

Alarm clock and toilet paper with copy space. Concept of Healthy, Improve digestion

Do Antibiotics Cause Constipation?

Diarrhea is the commonly thought of and more likely side effect of antibiotics. It actually occurs pretty often – to roughly 1 in 5 people. Diarrhea as a side effect of taking antibiotics even has an official name – antibiotic-associated diarrhea. 

However, constipation can also be a side effect. If you began an antibiotic and then you developed constipation, the introduction of the antibiotic was likely the cause.  

Antibiotics are effective and necessary to treat certain bacterial infections. They work by killing or starving the bacteria responsible for the infection.

As antibiotics work to kill pathogenic bacteria, they will also deplete the body of beneficial bacteria.

Decreasing good bacteria sets the stage for dysbiosis (an imbalance of good and bad bacteria) (4). This imbalance is the reason constipation or diarrhea develops. 

Not surprisingly, with each round of antibiotics, the more likely (and potentially more severe) a case of dysbiosis can become. In other words, the likelihood and severity of digestive problems can increase with each round of antibiotics.  

Today we’re talking about different types of antibiotics, how they cause constipation, other causes of constipation, and our best recommendations for solving chronic constipation. 

What is Constipation?

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, 4 million people in the US have frequent constipation – this is a very common digestive concern (13)!

Although people use the term constipation regularly, you might not actually know the definition. Constipation occurs when you have one or more of the following:

Being constipated will also have other negative impacts such as bloating and abdominal pain.  

When constipation is ongoing (lasting three or more months), other symptoms that may develop include:

Why is constipation so uncomfortable and problematic? Elimination is the final phase of detoxification in the body (if this concept is new to you, click here to learn about how we are designed to eliminate toxins and natural ways to support detoxification ). If the body isn’t able to get rid of what it doesn’t need, things like toxins and bile will remain in circulation. 

What Causes Constipation?

Constipation is typically classified as primary (having no obvious cause) or secondary (having an identifiable cause). 



Other Causes of Constipation

Side Effects of Antibiotics

Beyond constipation and diarrhea, dysbiosis caused by antibiotics  can contribute to the development of many chronic diseases, such as:

Children who are prescribed prolonged courses of antibiotics, born via c-section, or formula fed are more likely to develop chronic constipation later in life due to the impact of these things on the microbiome (5, 6). 

You should immediately contact your doctor if you develop more severe side effects caused by an allergic reaction, including difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or swelling. 

How to Reverse Side Effects of Antibiotics

Unfortunately, even just one round of antibiotics can impact the microbiome for a very long time.

Research shows that it can take the microbiome anywhere from four weeks to four years to recover from a single round of antibiotics. (8, 9, 10, 11)!

Our assumption would be that the impact would be on the shorter end of that timeframe for someone who hasn’t taken antibiotics often and follows a clean diet (stays close to the food chain, consuming lots of fruits, vegetables, probiotic food sources, proteins, and healthy fats), manages stress well and is diligent with probiotics…a history of breastfeeding and vaginal birth also help!

Most people can’t claim such a clean bill of health, though. Processed foods, formula feeding, C-section births, stress, and exposure to multiple rounds of antibiotics would increase the time it takes to replenish the microbiome and eliminate symptoms caused by antibiotics.

Tips for recovering from antibiotics:

If you resonate with the last paragraph in the section above – you’re with most of us! Here are some things that you can do to recover well from antibiotics faster:

Eat a daily serving of probiotic and prebiotic rich foods to recover your microbiome after antibiotics.

The Overuse of Antibiotics

Around 47 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions are written annually in the United States (1)!

At least 28% of antibiotics prescribed in an outpatient setting are unnecessary, meaning no antibiotic was needed (2).

Even the CDC says, “Too many antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily and misused, which threatens the usefulness of these important drugs…Unnecessary use also happens when a person is prescribed antibiotics for infections sometimes caused by bacteria that do not always need antibiotics, like many sinus and some ear infections.”

The CDC has even developed a program called Be Antibiotic Aware, designed to reduce the overprescribing of antibiotics and combat antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotics should not be prescribed for viruses like the flu or the common cold. They also aren’t always necessary for sinus infections, bronchitis, or even ear infections, even though those are caused by bacteria. 

Types of Antibiotics

Different categories of antibiotics are prescribed to treat different types of bacterial infections.   

It’s beyond the scope of this post to review the different antibiotics, but it’s important to differentiate between a few: 

Constipation Relief

If you suffer from constipation, you’re likely familiar with these common conventional treatments:

Overusing laxatives or enemas can cause dependence. If you’re looking for more natural ways to support the body (so you aren’t always relying on help to poop), read on! 

How to Empty Your Bowels

First and foremost, you want to address the root cause of your constipation. If the cause of your constipation is a medication, we recommend discussing this with your doctor.   

If you’re concerned an antibiotic may be responsible for your constipation or other GI problems – here’s an interesting debate:

Here are our preferred labs to run when getting to the root cause of constipation for our clients:

Below are some simple and natural things you can do to get things moving. 💩

Foods for Constipation

Drinks That Make You Poop

Supplements for Constipation

Like the prune juice word of caution in the section above, we recommend a slow workup with supplements for constipation. Constipation isn’t fun, and neither is diarrhea.

We recommend trying the supplements below one at a time rather than adding several quickly.  You can also find this protocol in our Fullscript dispensary.

Digestive Support
Probiotics (18, 19)
Natural Prokinetics

Prokinetic literally means pro: “supporting or for” + kinetic: “motion.” 

The digestive tract moves food along when its muscles contract and relax, creating a wave-like motion called peristalsis. Prokinetic agents promote the natural movement of the digestive tract by making contractions larger or more frequent.  

If constipation is due to slow transit, meaning your system is taking longer than what’s considered normal to move food through, a prokinetic supplement or prescription can help speed up your transit time.

If you have chronic constipation and have never tried a prokinetic, consider talking to your doctor about the prescription Motegrity or trying a natural prokinetic like ginger

There are many other prokinetics, but diving into the pros and cons of all of them is beyond the scope of this post.  This is where working with an experienced healthcare practitioner is helpful!

Other Tips for Constipation Relief at Home


Constipation can occur when taking antibiotics and, because of their impact on the microbiome, can continue long after you finish it.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to replenish your good gut bacteria (i.e. eat a varied diet, take a probiotic supplement, eat fermented foods and prebiotic rich foods) and get you pooping!

If you need individualized support, start working with one of our registered dietitians to find the root cause of your constipation and fix it!

Are you ready to finally heal your gut?

Schedule your FREE 15-minute phone call today!

Just click below to schedule online!

Prefer the phone? Just call or text 678-424-6520

Exit mobile version