Antibiotics obviously have many positive impacts and have been rightfully credited with saving many lives from what we now see as common, even slightly benign conditions such as strep throat and ear infections. Antibiotics kill the harmful bacteria that cause infection and stop it from spreading. However, antibiotics don’t only kill the harmful bacteria, they also wipe out all present good bacteria, which we now know is a crucial component to cultivating healthy immune systems as well as many other everyday functions. Did you know that in the last 20 years human antibiotic use has risen over 40% in the US? This, along with a few other factors, is leading to a dramatic rise in antibiotic resistance. There’s plenty of research out there about the dangers of antibiotic resistance, but I’ll keep that to myself for now. Give it a quick search if you want a truly scary Halloween tale.
Many of us who have taken antibiotics in the past may have been tempted to discontinue our treatment due to their negative side effects. However, this could have a further detrimental impact on your health and cause serious antibiotic resistance. Basically, it tends to mean that leftover bacteria are left behind to grow stronger and more resistant to additional treatment. All of that being said, you may find that there are times in your life where it is essential that you take an antibiotic. While it’s essential, this can be disastrous to your carefully curated gut microbiome. However, there are steps you can take to help protect the diverse and intricate bacterial universe you have within you.
Replace the wiped out good bacteria: As mentioned above, antibiotics don’t discriminate. They’ll wipe out good bacteria just as quickly as the baddies. This is why antibiotics can cause stomach ailments. It’s also why it’s so important to take the steps to recolonize your gut with beneficial bacteria. This can be done with the addition of a few probiotic-rich foods to your diet, as well as with actual probiotic pills. However, make sure that if you do take a probiotic pill, it is of good quality and without fillers. Probiotic-rich foods include: kimchi, yogurt (no sugar added as sugar is highly inflammatory and can do more damage), krauts, and kombucha.
Repair your gut: Your gut just served as a battleground for a strenuous war. And as such, it deserves a little R&R to heal its wounds. Give it care with a little bone broth and collagen supplementation. These heal the barriers within your gut and help keep the lining strong. If you’re practicing an animal-free diet, you can always enjoy a nice licorice root tea for similar benefits. It’s also important to eat foods high in fiber as this helps restore healthy intestinal functions.
Feed the good bacteria with prebiotics: You’ve heard of probiotics, but have you heard about pre-biotics? Prebiotics are basically the food sources that probiotics need to grow strong and plentiful. These include bananas, garlic, onions, leeks, dandelion greens, oats, and so many more.
Support your liver: At this point, I’m sure you’re aware that the liver is the organ in charge of filtering out all of the toxins in your body. And though it can really take a beating and often make quite the comeback, it will usually benefit from all the help it can get, especially after a round of antibiotic use (antibiotics are actually quite damaging to the liver). The liver loves a diet high in fiber and healthy fats as this has a highly anti-inflammatory impact. Leafy greens high in fiber - looking at you brassicas! - also help the liver filter out toxins while restoring and repairing the vital organ.
In the end, we’re very fortunate to live in a time where we don’t often have to fear death from a round of strep throat thanks to antibiotics. That being said, they should be avoided where they can and supplemented with the above suggestions where they can’t. Our gut microbiome is key to our health and should be supported wherever it can be.