April 29, 2022

Antibiotics and Liver Injury

by Andrea Richardson

Antibiotics are an important medication that helps destroy harmful bacteria that could lead to serious infection. When used correctly, they assist recovery and save lives.

They are also prescribed long term for months or years to treat;

  • acne
  • autoimmune diseases
  • persistent infections like staph  
  • urinary tract infections
  • to prevent a bacterial infection like malaria while traveling 

Unfortunately, this powerful group of drugs also destroys the friendly bacteria too. But what most people don't know is, they can also cause drug-induced liver injury or DILI for short.

Whilst many medications can cause DILI, antibiotics top the list and are responsible for 45% of cases.(1)(2)

Who's at risk?

Some factors which increase the risk of developing antibiotic DILI are;

  • increased age
  • female sex
  • previous reaction to antibiotics
  • if other health conditions exist
  • individual genetics

Liver injury may not be obvious immediately, as it can take weeks, months and sometime more than a year to manifest (2). Consequently, this means many people are never aware that antibiotics are the cause of their problems.

Types of Liver Injury

Antibiotics have been shown to cause the following problems including; (2)(3)(4)

Autoimmune hepatitis, inflammation of the liver, gallstones, decreased bile flow, hepatocellular (liver cell) damage, fatty liver disease & vanishing bile duct syndrome.

Whilst not all antibiotics have the same risks, it's important to understand how toxic they can be. In this way, we can take precautions to minimise potential injury and be alert to symptoms.

Symptoms of a dysfunctional liver

Once the liver is damaged, many symptoms can arise, including; (3) (4)

  • nausea, vomitting & poor appetite
  • food intolerance particulary fats
  • skin rashes, itching & jaunice
  • fatigue
  • joint pain
  • liver pain
  • diarrhea & constipation
  • excess fluid in abdomen
  • brain malfunction (encephalopathy), brain fog
  • low libido
  • problems tolerating alcohol
  • increased cholesterol

Food intolerance

When the liver can't process food, drugs, chemicals and detox fast enough, waste and toxins build up and cause inflammation and disease.

This leads to a build-up of metabolites (a substance made or used when the body breaks down food, drugs or chemicals) in the body. As a result, food intolerances, inflammation and symptoms start.

Our liver is the major elimination organ that keep our body clean and healthy.

In other words, when we improve our liver function, our body can effectively process and remove waste and metabolites. Consequently reducing food intolerances.  

Can the liver heal itself?

Yes! The liver has amazing healing abilities. In fact, doctors can remove half this organ and it will grow back!

With the right support and diet, your liver can restore and repair, which is great news if you want to reverse disease and health your body naturally.

Supporting your liver

There are many ways you can support your liver, including reducing your intake of animal proteins. As these are hard to digest and put a big strain on it. Diets rich in plant foods, including raw salads are ideal for healing the liver.

Certain herbs and supplements can also be valuable, including;

Milk thistle - (Silybum marianum)

Milk thistle is a powerful antioxidant and has been used for thousands of years to protect and heal the liver. The active ingredient is silymarin,

        “In human studies, silymarin has been shown to have positive effects in treating liver disease of various kinds, including cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis, fatty infiltration of the liver and inflammation of the bile duct.” (5)

Dandelion - (Taraxacum)

This is a powerful liver herb that's been used for 1000's of years. Dandelion root tea is widely available and is an excellent and tasty replacement for coffee. In addition to liver support, it has countless other amazing health benefits.


Curcumin is the yellow pigment in the turmeric root that has outstanding anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It's been found to effectively support and detoxify the liver.(6) Turmeric can be added to meals or made into a drink with ginger, however it also comes in supplement form for ease of use.

It's critical to support our liver when taking any medication, but especially when using antibiotics.

Healing Naturally

Restoring and supporting the liver is one part of my Anti-Inflammatory Healing Program. If you'd like to learn more then click here.

1. Naga Chalasani et al. (2015) Features and Outcomes of 899 Patients with Drug-Induced Liver Injury: The DILIN Prospective Study.  Gastroenterology 2015 Vol 148:7, pp 1340-1352.e7.

2. Medsafe. (2012) Antibiotics and Liver Injury – Be suspicious! Retrieved from https://medsafe.govt.nz/profs/PUArticles/AntibioticsSept2012.htm

3. LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; 2012-. Autoimmune Hepatitis. [Updated 2019 May 4]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK548188/

4. Devarbhavi H. An Update on Drug-induced Liver Injury. J Clin Exp Hepatol. 2012;2(3):247-259. doi:10.1016/j.jceh.2012.05.002

5. Murray M, Pizzorno J (2000) Encyclopaedia of natural medicine (2nd ed.) London Little, Brown and Co.

6. Phan TT1, See P, Lee ST, Chan SY.(2001 Nov) Protective effects of curcumin against oxidative damage on skin cells in vitro: its implication for wound healing. J Trauma. 2001 Nov;51(5):927-31.

Don't know where to start?

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About the author

I was diagnosed with a painful auto-immune disease when I was 35 years old and I found a way to reverse the disease and become drug free. Now I teach others how to do the same.  When I don't have my head buried in a text book I enjoy, camping, spending time with family.

Andrea Richardson


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