Antibiotics might be unavoidable at times, especially if you have a severe infection that won’t be treated with natural remedies. Prescribed antibiotics are usually very broad-spectrum, aimed at killing all the bacteria in your system to make sure that the infection subsides once and for all.
Unfortunately, this means that antibiotics will wipe out the good and bad bacteria. The immense impact that our gut microbiota (the population of good bacteria) has on every single system in our body is being more revealed in recent years.
We need a large and diverse microbiome to make sure everything from our digestion, immune system, reproductive health, and even our mental health is functioning at its best. When we take antibiotics that wipe out the good bacteria, the space they occupied in our gastrointestinal tract is now available for the bad bacteria to settle in and possibly invade, which will lead to further infection in the future, digestive issues, and chronic inflammation.
So, what can you do about this?
There are few things you can do before and after taking your antibiotics to minimize the damage done to your gut bacteria ecosystem. The delicate balance might still be disrupted while you’re taking the antibiotics, so the most repair can be done once your round of antibiotics is finished. During your course of antibiotics, make sure to have plenty of nutrient-dense meals that are low in simple sugars and rich in fiber. Simple sugars can increase inflammation and worsen your symptoms, whereas low-glycemic foods will not.
Instead of containing simple sugar molecules, complex carbohydrates contain fiber, which our bodies are unable to breakdown. Instead, fiber is the food source for our beneficial gut bacteria. Sweet potatoes, oatmeal and other whole grains, dark leafy vegetables, beans, and seeds contain lots of fiber. Avoid junk food and treats with added sugars.
After taking your antibiotics, have some probiotics. This can be in the form of probiotic supplements or foods and drinks that contain bacterial cultures, such as kefir, yogurt, kimchi, tempeh, and kombucha drinks. Probiotics are strains of good bacteria that are made for us to consume. High-quality probiotic supplements might be pricey, but they are well worth it, especially if you are trying to restore the balance in your microbiome after antibiotics. Please, don’t take your probiotics right before you take antibiotics. This will be counterproductive because the antibiotics will wipe out all the newly introduced good bacteria directly after you’ve consumed them.
Once you’re finished with your round of antibiotics, increase your consumption of both probiotics and prebiotics to most effectively restore the balance in your gut microbiome. You can also up your intake of certain gut healing nutrients, such as vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin A has a protective effect on the intestinal lining and can help repair any damage done to the intestinal barrier during your course of antibiotics. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to increase the population size and diversity of gut bacteria.