Updated: Oct 9, 2018
Most people are aware of the negative effects of taking antibiotics, and thankfully these days many doctors are avoiding prescribing antibiotics, unless it's absolutely necessary. Antibiotics are one of the biggest contributors to poor gut health, and are known to have a wide range of adverse side effects. For example studies of newborns have shown that antibiotic exposure in the first 6 months of life, resulted in subjects being 2.5 x more likely to develop allergies and asthma.
Despite growing knowledge of the poor health effects that result from antibiotics, many people resort to antibiotics regularly to fight common colds several times a year. While antibiotics are life saving in acute cases, they are overused and over prescribed, which has led to epidemics of antibiotic resistant pathogens, and damaged guts.
A Healthy Gut = Resilient Immune System
70-80% of our immune system is located along the gastrointestinal tract. A resilient and responsive immune system is immensely dependent on gut health. Modern life doesn't make it easy to be brimming with vitality, and have a healthy gut, and antibiotics worsen the problem. Antibiotics obliterate your microbiome (gut bacteria) eradicating both the beneficial, commensal and pathogenic bacteria.
As the gut bacteria are killed off by antibiotics, antibiotic resistant bacteria can thrive creating dysbiosis in the gut. Dysbiosis can occur with a lack of good bacteria (insufficiency dysbiosis) or a dominance of pathogenic bacteria. When the balance of gut flora is disturbed, opportunistic pathogens like yeast, parasites or bacteria thrive. This is why so many people get yeast infections when taking antibiotics, as natural competitors for yeast are wiped out, allowing it's numbers to proliferate unchecked.
Every exposure to antibiotics weakens your system, and makes it harder to restore your optimal bacterial microbiota. The more times you take antibiotics, the more likely it is that you can develop antibiotic resistant bacterial infections in your gut. A diverse and healthy gut ecology is integral for health, so if you have to take antibiotics, you must seek to actively repair your gut health.
Antibiotic Care Plan
If antibiotics are essential (sometimes they are!) then we recommend the follow to help reduce damage:
1. Reduce sugar and refined, processed carbohydrates
Besides from reduce immune function, sugar directly feeds pathogens, which is why you often crave sugar when you are sick. Antibiotics will wipe out bacteria and create a more alkaline bowel which allows yeast to thrive. Don't feed the yeast sugar and help them take over your gut! In addition yeast creates mycotoxins which can destroy your gut, harm your brain, further reduce resilience, and break down tissue. Processed foods, sugar and refined grains, are highly inflammatory and are the last thing a sick body needs.
2. Take good prebiotics & probiotics
Prebiotics and probiotics can be used during, and after finishing the course of antibiotics. Whilst using antibiotics, you can still take probiotics to reduce symptoms. We recommend soil based organism probiotics and especially saccharomyces boulardii, a beneficial yeast that will reduce yeast overgrowth and not be affected by antibiotics. Read more detail here about the importance of prebiotics and probiotics and some of our favourite supplements to restore gut health.
3. Eat a nutritiously dense diet
This goes without saying! A diet rich in fibrous vegetables, starchy carbohydrates, healthy fats, quality protein sources will support your body to fight off the sickness much faster. Top picks for illness recovery and gut health would be bone broth, organ meats, seafood, fermented vegetables, and eating the rainbow of vegetables. Extra ginger, onions, and zinc rich seafood, are brilliant when ill.
4. Avoid substances that contribute to leaky gut
Gluten, alcohol, stress, chemicals, pesticides, toxins etc will damage the intestinal lining, increase intestinal permeability or 'leaky gut' and further reduce you immunity. Antibiotics cause leaky gut on their own, so avoiding these substances will reduce the damage to your gut lining. Read more about avoiding leaky gut here.
5. Use essential Oils To boost Immunity
Many essential oils are well researched for their potent healing abilities. Essential oils like oregano, eucalyptus, clove, cinnamon, thyme, lemon and melaleuca have high anti-microbial, anti-fungal properties, and are some of our top picks to enhance immunity and fight germs. Oregano has been deemed ‘natures antibiotic’. We either diffuse the oils, or take them internally via an empty vegetable capsule, apply them to feet, or breathe them in via a tissue. In our experience our colds have cleared more rapidly, and we have noticed substantial differences in decreasing congestion and pain.
6. Supplement with immune boosting nutrients
When you are sick your body needs extra support. The below list are our favourite supplements to speed up healing and maintain optimal wellness.
Vitamin C - When sick you can take high dose vitamin C up to bowel tolerance. Bowel tolerance means you keep dosing until you experience gas, bloating, or loose stools which indicates you have reached your bowel threshold for vitamin C uptake. Liposomal Vitamin C is best absorbed but cheaper versions like this will do the trick nicely.
Magnesium - a vital nutrient that SO many people are lacking. Magnesium is important for 300+ biological processes and is key in reducing stress, aches and pains, nervous system, muscular and neural health. We prefer magnesium chelates like magnesium glycinate, malate, citrate etc.
Curcumin - has powerful anti-inflammatory and immune balancing properties. Curcumin tablets are poorly absorbed unless you opt for the longvida form of curcumin which has far superior bioavailablility.
Glutathione - Is always a winner for assisting detoxification, healthy cellular function, reducing free radicals and is the bodies master antioxidant. Again liposomal versions are best absorbed.
7. Train and Move intelligently even when you are sick
Training too hard, and moving too little will delay healing. Many people think they need to refrain from training or movement when sick, but this is not the case. While we need to reduce intensity, we must continue moving within our energy capacity. The body needs movement to pump circulation and lymphatic removal, increase cellular function, improve immunity and feel better. Read more here about how to train when you are sick.
8. Get in the sun
Repair Your Gut
Taking antibiotics is never a pleasant experience, and is incredibly frustrating when you are actively trying hard to increase gut health. Knowing what to do to minimise the damage, and rebuild your gut post treatment makes all the difference in a faster recovery, and building a healthy immune system.
If you experience issues with your gut, or suspect something isn't right, (and especially if you have a history of numerous antibiotic use) it may be worth investing in some comprehensive stool testing to check the state of your microbiome, digestion and overall gut health. If you need a hand let us know, and we can happily run some functional lab testing for you. As Hippocrates said, 'all disease begins in the gut', so it's worth paying close attention to the health of your digestive system.