Side effects of NTM treatment

Did you know most people with
NTM also have Bronchiectasis?

Though the medications used to treat nontuberculous mycobacterial lung disease can be difficult to tolerate, here are tips which may help reduce the severity of some of the side effects of nontuberculous mycobacteria treatment. Remember to always talk to your doctor about any side effects and any remedies you plan to try for them, or about adjusting your medication dosages.


Fatigue is a common side effect of both the illness and the treatments for it. While there are no medications that can restore your full energy, there are ways to help fight the fatigue. Proper nutrition, good hydration, and exercise can all help improve the way you feel. Many patients lose weight, but your body needs energy to help fight the disease, so if you are dropping too much weight, make sure you supplement your nutritional intake with extra calories. You can learn more about this with our Nutrition Guide.

Upset Stomach

Gastrointestinal distress is one of the more common side effects of antibiotics. It can range from bloating and mild discomfort to nausea or severe diarrhea, which can lead to extreme dehydration. This upset stomach may be the result of the antibiotics killing off the good bacteria which normally reside in your gastrointestinal tract. You can help replace these good bacteria by taking a probiotic supplement. For nausea, ginger in some form such as ginger ale or ginger chews may help. If the nausea is severe, your doctor may prescribe an anti-nausea medication.

Yeast: A Candid Look at Candida

One of the most common side effects of any antibiotic treatment is candidiasis, or a yeast infection. These infections are the result of an overgrowth of a fungus, usually Candida albicans. The most common type of infection is a vaginal yeast infection, though it can also occur inside the mouth (this is called thrush). Although it is not a sexually transmitted illness, some men will develop symptoms on their genitals after having sexual contact with an infected partner.

Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include an abnormal discharge, painful urination, redness and swelling of surrounding skin, itching and burning. Oral thrush appears as whitish, velvety sores in the mouth and on the tongue, with inflamed tissue underneath which may bleed easily. Either one should be diagnosed by a physician and promptly treated. You should only self-treat a yeast infection if your symptoms are mild, it isn’t your first one and you are familiar with the symptoms. If it keeps coming back consistently, you will need to see your doctor for further treatment.

Treatments for vaginal yeast infections range from over-the-counter to prescription creams or suppositories. (Suppositories are easier to use if they have been refrigerated for a short while.) Severe or repeat infections may require oral antifungal medications. There are also things you can do to help your body replace and rebalance the bacteria. These include probiotics which can be taken orally as a supplement or in food such as yogurt with live cultures, or in suppository form.

Thrush can be treated and held at bay by rinsing and brushing your mouth with a soft toothbrush several times a day, using a diluted 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. Your doctor may also prescribe antifungal mouthwash, lozenges or oral medication. Foods like yogurt with live cultures and probiotic supplements can also help.

A Note on Probiotics

The most common live culture in probiotic supplements, which are sold over-the-counter and in live culture foods is Lactobacillus acidophilus, and most contain others as well. There are many brands, and your doctor may have a preferred brand to recommend for you, or you may try several until you find one you like.

Because they are live cultures, probiotics should never be taken at the same time as antibiotics. You should allow a three to four-hour window between an antibiotic dose and a probiotic dose. Otherwise, the antibiotics will simply kill off the live cultures. Most probiotics are meant to be refrigerated, so read the instructions on the packaging carefully.

Probiotics supplements come in varying doses (the number of live microorganisms in each capsule), which means some may be much stronger than others. This may come as a shock to your system at first and cause an upset stomach. Your body will likely get used to the increased levels of healthy bacteria, but it can take time, so you may choose to start with smaller doses and work up to larger doses.