As a country we take far too many antibiotics – an estimated 4 out of 5 of us will be prescribed antibiotics this year.1 This is a staggering number and it’s not just wrecking our guts, it’s changing microbes themselves. Antibiotic-resistant strains are on the rise and complicating treatments.
In 2015, 50,000 people died from antibiotic-resistant pathogens in Europe and the US and this number is projected to reach 10 million per year in 2050.2 Eventually, we are going to be forced to face the damage created by the astronomical use of antibiotics.
But for now, we can focus on minimizing our personal use. Through a better understanding of gut health, good nutrition, and fermented foods, we can avoid antibiotics most of the time.
What Antibiotics Do To Your Gut
Much like an ecosystem, our gut is made up of hundreds of thousands of bacteria. We’ve evolved as a species alongside these gut dwellers. Meaning our health is intricately entangled with the health of our gut microbiome.
People often ask me, “How long does it take for good bacteria to restore after antibiotics?”
There is what’s called “functional redundancy” of the gut, meaning it’s able to largely bounce back from antibiotic use. This same study found that within 4 weeks the participant’s guts closely resembled their pretreatment state. However, that same study found certain species failed to recover even after six months.
While it’s best to avoid antibiotics whenever possible, there are times when it just can’t be avoided.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of needing antibiotics, there are steps you can take before, during, and after to support your gut and minimize the impact. It’s a common misconception that you should wait to implement these steps until after you’ve finished your antibiotics – don’t wait! Start each of these six steps before you take that first pill.
How to Prevent Antibiotic Damage Before, During, and After Antibiotics in 6 Steps
1. Eat prebiotic foods
We talk a lot about probiotics, but prebiotics are just as important. Prebiotics are a non-digestible fiber (oligosaccharides) that supply the beneficial bacteria with the nutrients they need to thrive, especially bacteria in the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillaceae families.5
You can think of prebiotics as “food” for the good guys.
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Chicory root
- Dandelion greens
Does this list sound somewhat foreign to you? Just start with one of the foods you know how to cook and eat that every couple days. Other easy options include nice starchy foods that bacteria love such as sweet potato, winter squash, and wild rice!
2. Eat probiotic-rich fermented foods
Make a plan to heal your gut through incorporating probiotic foods before, during, and after antibiotics. Some of the best fermented foods for your gut and overall health include:
- Coconut kefir
- Greek yogurt (not the sugary stuff!)
- Raw cheese
- Apple cider vinegar
3. Take probiotics
The best probiotics to take after antibiotics should include the following species:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus casei
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Lactobacillus reuteri
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
- Bifidobacterium breve
- Bifidobacterium longum
4. Take supportive herbs
Adaptogenic herbs make your body more resilient to stressors and restore your energy reserves antibiotics are known to zap. You can take these before, during, and after antibiotics. They will help your body deal with the impacts of the antibiotics better and help you bounce back faster.
You can also take a berberine supplement for a few weeks. This will help balance your gut flora and prevent reinfection. Herbs that will support you during your round of antibiotics include:
- Holy basil
5. Implement the Gut Rebuilding Program
For a comprehensive gut rebuilding program, you can sign up for my eight-week course which is perfect for anyone who is about to take or has taken antibiotics. It’s complete with eight trainings, four video coaching calls, a gut rebuilding handbook, private Facebook group, and delicious, energizing recipes.
If you just want to know what you should be eating in general, I recommend:
- 4-6 ounces of protein
- 6-12 ounces of non-starchy vegetable
- 2-4 ounces starchy veg like winter squash, sweet potato, or wild rice
Be sure your diet is a balance of protein, vegetables, and a starch to feed the beneficial bacteria.
6. Reduce unnecessary stressors
When you’re taking antibiotics, your body needs all the help it can get to heal itself. This is why reducing your exposure to toxins is very important. If you’re exposing yourself to unnecessary toxins, your body has to work to clear those out and can’t spend as much energy healing.
You can reduce your toxic burden but implementing the following:
- Drink filtered or spring water
- Clean up your personal care products. Check out my favorite clean products in this post.
- Use natural household cleaners. Watch this interview with toxins expert to find out how.
- Replace air filters regularly
- Avoid cooking on aluminum or non-stick pans
- Eliminate BPA containing plastics
- Take Epsom salt baths
Reduce the impact of antibiotics in your life
If you’ve had to take a round of antibiotics it’s important to consider how you got to that point in the first place. Ask yourself, why did you have to take antibiotics? Is there anything you could do to prevent this from happening again in the future? And what could you do to make yourself generally healthier and stronger, so your chances of needing harmful medications are reduced?
There are times when it’s completely out of your control, so don’t beat yourself up about it. View this as an opportunity for improvement and try not to get too anxious or stressed out. In fact, when you heal your gut, you’ll experience a whole host of positive cognitive benefits. The gut-brain connection is powerful and even influences your mood.
If you get control of your gut health before you get sick, you might eliminate your need for antibiotics altogether.
Share this article with a family member or friend who’s about to start antibiotics or already took them. You can help them significantly reduce the consequences of antibiotics by following these six steps and your gut will thank you!