- Hannah Aylward
Antibiotics and Your Gut
Antibiotics and Your Gut
By Hannah Aylward
We can’t discuss all things gut health without mentioning antibiotics.
We’ve all taken them for different reasons across the board for skin conditions, yeast infections, sinus infections, UTIs, bronchitis, etc. Sometimes, they are totally necessary to kill off big bacteria that we might not be able to fight on our own. However, I feel safe saying and generally speaking, antibiotics are overprescribed. I know when I was a little girl, I took at least one full round of antibiotics per cold and flu season.
So what do they even do?
Antibiotics kill all the bacteria that we have in our system, and hopefully those that aremaking us sick. However, they can’t determinebetween the bad bacteria and the good bacteria which we know we need, so they wipe out all of it, just incase. This means, when we lose the bugs making us sick, we also lose all the bugs keeping us well.
Our bodies are made up of more bacteria than human cells, and it is important to keep the ratio of good to bad bacteria in balance, because let’s be real, there will always be some bad. You can learn exactly how to support your gut here. This healthy gut keeps us well and decreases the likelihood that we catch an infection to begin with. However, sometimes life happens. A huge life stressor weakens our immune systems. Perhaps your child starts attending a new school, or you just touch the wrong door handle and you catch something. It happens to the best of us. Sometimes you have to take that antibiotic now to get you to a point where you can actually stop fighting and start recovering.
If we don’t take the proper steps to encourage those healthy bacteria to grow and stick around in our gut after taking a round of antibiotics, we risk developing something more serious or having the infection come right back.
So here is a general guide to helping those good bacteria thrive in that beautiful gut of yours:
1. Eat fermented foods.
This includes kefir, miso, sauerkraut, cultured coconut yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, apple cider vinegar and beet kvass. All of these fermented foods will help repopulate the gut with good bacteria. Don’t skimp on quality here. We want the good, live stuff!
2. Consider taking a probiotic.
Probiotics are good bacteria that help restore the balance of the gut microbiome. They promote overall gut health, help with digestion, as well as support both the immune system and brain. When choosing a probiotic, try to get one with a few different strains of bacteria. The more variety of probiotics in our system, the abler we are to keep the bad bacteria out. Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria are common, good strains of bacteria that are readily available in most health food stores. S. boulardii, a beneficial yeast, is especially useful during antibiotic treatment. Since it is a yeast rather than a bacteria strain, the antibiotics can’t kill it. It’s very important to not skimp on quality here. You want to get what you are actually paying for. There is a big difference in the quality of supplements on a shelf at a store, as opposed to in a doctor’s office. Doctors have access to medical-grade supplements, that are more powerful than others. If you have an awesome doctor, turn to them for information. If not, I also have some of my favorites featured on my website here.
3. Eat foods rich in prebiotics.
Probiotics are incredibly powerful, but they won’t actually stick around if they aren’t fed properly. Make sure to include foods high in prebiotics when recovering (and really always!) to support those healthy bugs. These foods include: onion, leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, garlic, etc.
4. Look into L-glutamine.
L-glutamine is an amino acid that helps to rejuvenate the gut wall lining. This amino acid plays a critical role in healthy digestion and brain function and protects against mucosal breakdown in the gut. For me personally, this supplement has been a game-changer. You will find this amino acid in a lot of intestinal support supplements. This is one of my favorites.
5. Drink bone broth.
There is a reason why your grandma feeds you chicken soup whenever you get sick. Bone broth is loaded with minerals and vitamins. It also contains gelatin, which absorbs water and helps strengthen the mucus layer of the colon which keeps gut microbes away from the intestinal barrier. Glutamine, an amino acid found in bone broth, helps maintain the integrity of the gut mucosa and intestinal barrier.
6. Support your liver.
The liver has to process all supplements and medications that enter our system, so antibiotics can take a serious toll. Here are a few natural ways to support your liver (along with eating a clean diet):
- Try taking milk thistle. Milk thistle is an herbal supplement that detoxifies the liver and has been used as a natural treatment for liver disorders.
- Drink beet juice. Beets are packed with iron, calcium, betaine, B vitamins and antioxidants. They improve liver function by thinning the bile, making for easier flow.
- Add in dandelion greens. They help to detoxify the liver and promote increased bile production. Personally, I love dandelion tea!
1. Refined foods (sugar and simple carbohydrates).
Bad gut bacteria thrive off of these bad foods. Your gut needs all of the help that it can get, so keep away from anything that could damage it. Replace these with fresh, unprocessed foods.
2. Gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and sugar.
These foods are commonly inflammatory and tend to poke holes in the gut lining, leading to weakening of the immune system. Many people have sensitivities or negative reactions to these foods without even knowing it. Additionally, these foods tend to be genetically modified, so staying away from them is always a safe bet.
Gastrointestinal function is influenced by stress. Stress can cause changes in mucosal permeability and barrier function, visceral sensitivity and mucosal blood flow among others. So first and foremost, don’t stress about having to take the antibiotic. Sometimes, it happens! I’ll never forget a time when I picked up a rare skin infection that you get when in a dirty hot tub, but I hadn’t been in a hot tub in years. It was super scary and weird, and I had to surrender. So I took the antibiotic and followed the guide above. Also, this is the perfect excuse to slow things down a little bit and make some more time for self-care.
This guide was put together to help you stay healthy after taking a round of antibiotics. This does not serve as medical advice. Always consult your doctor before starting a new program and/or supplement. And always, listen to your body! You know it best.
**We recommend that you do not rely solely on the information presented and that you always read labels, warnings, and directions before using or consuming a product. You should consult your health care professional before making any changes to your regular health care routine.
Hannah Aylward is a Certified Health Coach, nutrition consultant, fitness instructor, healthy living expert, and founder of HAN. She helps both men and women around the world lose weight, heal skin disturbances, balance hormones, heal gut imbalances and feel at home in their bodies through healthy eating, movement, mindfulness and positive self-talk. Her goal is to help others “learn the tools that they need to live the lives they deserve”. Get to know her by visiting her website and following her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.