Antibiotics can cause digestive side effects like stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea. Eating certain foods or taking supplements may provide relief.

Antibiotics are powerful medications that treat bacterial infections. But they can also disrupt the balance of bacteria in your gut. This can lead to uncomfortable gastrointestinal side effects or irritation, such as stomach pain.

Eating foods like probiotics may help prevent or relieve digestive discomfort and encourage healing.

Here’s what you need to know about stomach pain from antibiotics, including why it occurs, how long it lasts, and how to find relief.

There a several ways you can prevent or relieve stomach pain and other digestive issues while taking antibiotics.

Eat probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms present in fermented foods and dietary supplements. They’re a healthy form of bacteria that can support your body’s functioning and help restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut.

Research suggests probiotics may be beneficial during or after treatment with antibiotics, which disrupt the balance of gut flora.

Additionally, studies suggest probiotics can help prevent digestive issues caused by antibiotics, such as antibiotic-related diarrhea.

Common probiotic foods include:

  • yogurt
  • fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and tempeh
  • kombucha
  • pickles

Probiotics are also available as dietary supplements that contain a variety of bacterial strains. In general, look for supplements that:

  • contain 5–10 different strains of bacteria
  • have a dose of 10 billion CFUs or higher

Doctors typically recommend taking probiotics 2 hours before or after taking antibiotics. This helps ensure the antibiotic does not kill the probiotic.

Talk with your doctor about the potential benefits of probiotic foods or supplements during treatment with antibiotics.

Eat prebiotics

Prebiotics are types of fiber that act as a food source for healthy gut bacteria. They support gut health by helping bacteria to produce important nutrients.

Some research suggests prebiotics may reduce side effects from antibiotics, though more research is needed.

Foods high in prebiotics include:

  • asparagus
  • bananas
  • blueberries
  • flaxseeds
  • garlic
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • onions
  • soybeans
  • spinach
  • whole grains

Dietary supplements containing prebiotics are also available. However, some people using prebiotic supplements report mild gastrointestinal discomfort, such as bloating and gas.

Speak with your doctor before taking any dietary supplements. They can determine which foods or supplements may provide relief from stomach pain or other side effects from antibiotics.

Eat smaller meals

Eating smaller portions of food while you’re taking a course of antibiotics may relieve stomach discomfort.

Large meals can disrupt the balance of bacteria in your stomach and contribute to bloating, cramping, or other digestive issues.

You can resume your regular eating habits once you have finished your course of antibiotics.

Drink plenty of water

Drinking water helps to flush the digestive system. This can help reduce side effects like constipation and stomach discomfort.

Water also helps thin the mucus lining the stomach, which may prevent irritation.

Take pills with meals if instructed

Some labels for antibiotics instruct you to take the medication with food. This may help reduce gastrointestinal distress as the medication absorbs into your stomach.

Your doctor will tell you if you should take your antibiotic with food. Be sure to carefully follow their instructions.

Antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria. This disrupts the natural balance of the gut microbiome, which plays an important role in digestive health.

As a result, antibiotics can cause a variety of digestive side effects, such as nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain.

Research supports this link. A 2020 literature review found that mild gastrointestinal side effects from antibiotics are common.

One study found stomach pain affected 9.3% of children taking antibiotics. Research in adults suggests that more than 10–15% of people taking antibiotics may experience gastrointestinal problems.

Mild side effects from antibiotics usually go away within a few days. Stomach pain may continue during the full course of treatment with antibiotics. But it should resolve once you stop taking antibiotics.

Most antibiotics are taken for 7–14 days.

However, your doctor may prescribe a shorter or longer treatment duration, depending on what type of infection you have.

If you continue to experience abdominal pain or other digestive side effects after you stop taking antibiotics, contact your doctor. They can discuss the best treatment options to reduce these symptoms.

Do not stop taking antibiotic treatment without speaking with your doctor. It’s important to complete the full course of antibiotics unless your doctor recommends not to.

Stopping antibiotic treatment prematurely without your doctor’s approval may cause the infection to return, in some cases more strongly than before.

However, recent research suggests shorter courses of antibiotics may be equally as effective as longer courses in many cases. In fact, prolonged exposure to antibiotics may contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Speak with your doctor about any concerning side effects like stomach pain. They can recommend ways to reduce stomach pain and discuss any changes to your treatment plan.

Common side effects of antibiotics can include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • cramps
  • diarrhea
  • stomach pain
  • loss of appetite
  • dizziness
  • rash
  • yeast infections

These side effects are typically mild and resolve once treatment is finished.

Yeast infections may require treatment with an antifungal medication, such as fluconazole.

Rare but serious side effects of antibiotics can include:

  • Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection, which causes severe diarrhea that can lead to colon damage
  • allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis
  • antibiotic-resistant infections

Speak with your doctor if you experience any prolonged or severe side effects.

Stomach pain is a common side effect of antibiotics, which disrupt the natural balance of gut flora.

Other common side effects include nausea, diarrhea, and bloating. These side effects are usually mild and resolve on their own within a few days.

Eating prebiotics and probiotics may help prevent and relieve these side effects. Other ways to find relief include eating smaller meals, drinking plenty of water, and taking antibiotic pills with food if instructed to.