How antibiotics can wreck your immune system

I'm sure this has happened to you at some point.

You went to a doctor with a minor infection... were given an antibiotic... and ended up glued to the toilet.

I won't get into the dirty details.

It's the most notorious side effect of antibiotics, coming for a visit -- and if you haven't had the painful cramps and diarrhea that mark the condition yet, be thankful.

Then -- whether you've battled the "antibiotic runs" or not -- take action to minimize your risk by avoiding the drugs unless you absolutely need them, as new research reveals how there's more than just a few days of toilet torture on the line.

That "side effect" is actually a sign of something far worse: the immune system in the stomach FAILING.

And it's caused by the very drugs that are supposed to help you!

The new study on both humans and mice finds that antibiotic drugs can damage an essential part of your immune system, called neutrophils.

Never heard of them? Most people haven't -- and when they're doing their job, you'll probably never hear a word about them.

They're a type of white blood cells that are often your body's first line of defense against infection. When they're really working well, they'll attack and destroy germs and other invaders before you ever get sick.

But when you take an antibiotic, it's like filling your gut with knockout gas aimed at those neutrophils.

The study finds their activity slows, leaving you exposed.

That alone could trigger an infection, but the study finds yet another risk as well.

Your stomach has a second line of defense, essentially a wall to keep out invaders. But antibiotics can weaken that well.

The result? Germs not only get into your gut more easily -- but once inside, they find that your defenses are essentially shut down, as those sleepy neutrophils simply aren't ready for battle.

That makes it easier for them to take over and make you sick, leading to the notorious diarrhea as well as secondary infections with dangerous germs such as C. difficile.

Of course, antibiotics are absolutely essential at times. In some cases, you may need the drugs to save your life.

But too often, they're given protectively... or "just in case"... or for conditions most docs know will go away entirely on their own.

Even when you have an infection that might need treatment, natural therapies can often work in place of the drugs.

And if you do need an antibiotic, be sure to take a probiotic along with it and for several weeks after to restore balance to your gut and help keep your natural defenses armed and ready.