Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to several intestinal disorders resulting from chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.
Around 3 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with IBD. Diagnosis typically occurs between the ages of 15 to 35. However, some people receive a diagnosis after 60.
When diagnosed during the younger years, genetics often plays a role. But when diagnosed in the later years, environmental factors, including medications for other conditions, could be the cause.
A study presented at the Digestive Disease Week annual conference reported that taking antibiotics can increase the risk of developing IBD in people over 60.
The study hasn’t been peer-reviewed or published yet.
According to the researchers, the more antibiotics were used, the higher the risk of developing IBD in older adults. People who took antibiotics were more likely to develop IBD than those who had not taken antibiotics within the past five years, especially with drugs used to treat gastrointestinal infections.
“Antibiotics are not the cause of IBD but probably increase the risk by altering the microbiome of the intestine and by altering the immune response to antigens,” Dr. James J. Lee, a gastroenterologist with Providence St. Joseph Hospital in California, told Healthline. “The impact of antibiotics is wide-ranging and the increased risk of developing IBD in people over 60 should not be ignored.”
Researchers said the risk of developing IBD increased with the number of prescriptions for antibiotics. People who had:
- One prescription were 27 percent more likely to be diagnosed with IBD.
- Two prescriptions were 55 percent more likely.
- Three prescriptions were 67 percent more likely.
- Four prescriptions were 96 percent more likely.
- Five or more prescriptions were 236 percent more likely.
However, experts said the research doesn’t mean you should not take antibiotics when needed.
“Our results reinforce judicious use of antibiotics, not only to prevent the development of multidrug-resistant organisms but to limit the new onset of IBD among older adults,” Dr. Adam Faye, a physician at the NYU Langone Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center in New York and lead study author, told Healthline. “Thus, in cases where a mild gastrointestinal (or any) illness is being treated or is expected to self-resolve in a few days, it might be prudent to hold off on antibiotics. However, on the other hand, this should not prevent using prescriptions of antibiotics when needed.”