Antibiotics BOTH Help and Hurt
At one point or another, we’ve all felt quite ill from some sort of sickness. While sometimes our bodies can fight off these infections, other times they might need a little bit of help. If you’ve got a bacterial infection, taking antibiotics can help give your body that push it needs towards health. But this doesn’t come without its own downsides…
One of those downsides is the fact that antibiotics don’t just kill the bad bacteria but the good ones too (23). While we don’t need the bad bacteria in our body, we do need a healthy amount of the good bacteria in our gut microbiome. Our digestive tract, especially our gut, relies on these good bacteria to have a healthy equilibrium to work with!
The good bacteria in our gut keeps the different functioning parts of our digestive tract working smoothly. Many studies have linked a healthy gut microbiome to all sorts of healthy functions throughout the rest of the body! A healthy gut has been linked to strong immune system responses (1, 2), improving your mental health (3, 4), promoting better digestion (5, 6, 7) and the list can go on and on.
When we are prescribed and take antibiotics, these medicines kill most bacterial organisms in our digestive tract, including both the bad and good bacteria. This imbalance, also known as dysbiosis, can throw off many of our bodily functions, as we listed (above) a few impacts our gut microbiome has on our bodies. Dysbiosis of the gut microbiome can be lead to a damaged gut flora and there may be a few noticeable signs…
Signs of Gut Bacteria Imbalance
Antibiotics can help you overcome an illness without you realizing it hurting your gut health. A study has shown that antibiotics can reduce your good gut bacteria by 90%, damaging your gut flora (8). There are a few signs that your gut microbiome is imbalanced from taking antibiotics, including:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) / Disease (IBD)
- Yeast Infection / Candida
- Autoimmune Diseases
- Excessive Gas
Restoring Gut Flora After Antibiotics
If you’ve experienced the symptoms above (and/or others) after you’ve taken antibiotics, it could mean that your gut microbiome is damaged. The good news is that there are a few different ways to aid your body in restoring your gut flora, especially after you’ve taken antibiotics. While your body can gradually restore your gut microbiome over a long period of time, these things below can help drastically speed up the path back to a healthy gut!
With antibiotics killing off many of those good bacteria that our gut needs, we can eat foods that can help restore those healthy, helpful bacteria in our gut! That’s where probiotics come in, which are living bacteria organisms that can be ingested and reside in your gut, aiding in bolstering those good bacteria. Probiotics, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, have been studied to help alleviate the negatives that come along with taking antibiotics (9, 10).
Certain foods that contain probiotics have been linked to more than just restoring a good gut microbiome! Kefir has not only been linked to helping restore the gut flora, but also strengthening the immune system and having anti-inflammatory properties (11, 12, 13). Kimchi helps with improved digestion while increasing good bacteria in the gut, as well as having cancer-fighting properties and improving immune responses (14, 15, 16). Other probiotics foods include yogurt, miso, kombucha, sauerkraut, etc., which you can read up on how these foods help keep a healthy gut!
While eating those probiotic foods, your gut microbiome is being filled with all those good bacteria that the antibiotics killed off. In order to keep those good bacterial cells alive, we need to ‘feed’ them, just like how we feed ourselves to keep us alive! Prebiotics, like prebiotic fibers, help the beneficial bacteria in our gut to thrive and better our gut health. To help restore our gut flora after antibiotics, we need to take prebiotics in combination with probiotics!
Some examples of prebiotic fibers includes chicory root, which has been linked to improved digestion and gut health, increased energy levels, and bolstering our immune system (17, 18, 19). Chicory root has been added into healthier alternatives of certain foods, like ice creams and coffee creamers. Another prebiotic food source is onions, which help restore leaky gut and relieve IBS, as well as increase vitamin/mineral absorption and lower cholesterol (20, 21, 22). Other prebiotic fibers can be found in bananas, legumes, jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, etc. Read more about how these prebiotic foods can improve our gut health and how it affects other health aspects throughout our body!
As antibiotics damage out gut microbiome, it leaves our digestive tract vulnerable to further damages. These damages from the antibiotics can weaken our gut lining and reduce digestive efficiency. We need something that can specifically help restore our gut lining, while protecting it from further damage. Good thing that there is a major protein player in our body know as collagen! Collagen is responsible for more than 25% of our total protein count and is part of the foundation for our skin, hair, connective tissues, muscles, etc.
Collagen has been linked to healing intestinal barriers and gut lining (24, 25, 26, 27), things that might become damaged from the death of good bacteria while taking antibiotics. On top of other collagen-promoting foods, one of the main sources of collagen can be bone broth. Bone broth is filled with naturally-sourced collagen, as it seeps out from the bones during the long brewing times. With many health benefits under its belt, bone broth is key to keeping yourself healthy, especially while taking antibiotics.
Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Other than foods that you might be able to consume, it’s also important to possibly cut back on certain things, like sugar. While there aren’t many good bacteria in your gut, fungi infections like Candida albicans might become more prevalent (28). Infections like candida flourish in environments that are filled with simple carbs and direct sugars. Typically, the gut bacteria in our gut can fight these infections off (29), but when there is a shortage of them (due to antibiotics), then there might be trouble. Try reducing your sugar intake to keep those infections under control, and to continue to live a healthier lifestyle in general!