Perhaps you or your child recently finished a round and want to know how to heal the gut after antibiotics. You’re in the right spot!
I often get asked about my take on antibiotics. And it’s simply not black and white. Are they massively over-prescribed? In my opinion, yes. Are they lifesaving and sometimes necessary? Also, yes. I believe antibiotics should be used as a last option instead of the first course of action. I’m all for lifestyle interventions and supplementation before antibiotics in order to fight bugs and beat sickness!
While antibiotics are a powerful medicine effective at fighting off unwanted bacteria and overcoming certain infections and illnesses, they have a big downside. Not only do antibiotics wipe out all of the harmful bugs, they wipe out our beneficial bacteria as well.
That ultimately means decreased immunity, greater susceptibility to unwanted gut pathogens, increased likelihood for gut dysbiosis, and a higher chance of all of the unwanted symptoms that go along with those things – digestive distress, stomach pain, constipation and/or diarrhea, cramps and more.
Additionally, over-usage of antibiotics can cause you to become more vulnerable to “superbugs.” Essentially, bacteria “morph” to multiply faster and become more difficult to kill. In my blog post Are Antibiotics Causing More Harm Than Good?, you can learn more about the powerfully negative effects of antibiotics.
Sometimes antibiotics are necessary. It’s an unfortunate reality to which many of us know. While it helps to know beforehand that your gut may experience unwanted symptoms and discomfort, this is not the time to panic. Instead, I want you to focus on what you can do in order to restore strength to your gut microbiome.
I’m going to give you some tips and tricks and a solid plan to get your gut back on track after antibiotics do their thing.
Especially when attempting to repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria, it’s highly advised to eat a rich variety of healthy, whole foods. In fact, links have been found between diverse gut microbiomes and healthy dietary patterns, including high-fiber vegetables and clean animal proteins such as eggs and fish. For that reason and more, I encourage my post-antibiotic clients to eat as many colorful real foods as possible.
It makes sense, right? The more real, whole and healthy foods you “feed” the good bacteria, the more robust and diversified they will become!
In order to rehabilitate the gut after antibiotic usage, a focus on gut healing and nutrient-dense foods is crucial. Additionally, cutting out sugars and processed foods is equally important.
Why is cutting sugar important? Because sugar feeds pro-inflammatory bacteria in the gut such as Proteobacteria. It also makes you more susceptible to Candida overgrowth. If you’re taking antibiotics, you’re already at a higher risk for Candida, other fungal overgrowth and dysbiosis. And a diet that is even moderate to high in sugar only furthers the risk for these things post-antibiotics.
Gut-healing and nutrient dense foods that soothe the gut lining, feed the good bugs, decrease inflammation and promote microbiome health will include a mix of prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods along with foods that contain collagen, amino acids and gelatin.
Dietary sources of prebiotics include: dandelion greens, artichokes, asparagus, alliums, and resistant starches like yucca, cassava, plantains, sweet potatoes, yams, taro or jicama. My favorite probiotic rich foods include coconut yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut. A collagen and gelatin-rich hero is bone broth, and it should absolutely be part of any post-antibiotic diet. Other fantastic and soothing foods include wild caught fish, chamomile tea, aloe vera, full fat coconut products and plenty of cooked organic veggies.
I always point clients toward my Gut Healing Green Soup, and there’s never a better time to have it multiple times a week than post-antibiotics.
I highly suggest gut-supportive supplements if you must take antibiotics. This is my recommendation for a minimum of 60 days post antibiotic:
Ensure that your high-quality probiotic has a variety of strains to help diversify your gut as much as possible. It should have different strains of Lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria or Saccharomyces Boulardii. And always make sure you’re taking your probiotic at least two hours away from the antibiotic. You can read my previous articles on why you should be taking prebiotics AND probiotics.
GI Immune Support is effective at strengthening the gut barrier and enhancing mucosal immunity. Gut Support promotes a healthy inflammatory response in the gut while improving the gut lining by providing concentrated nutrition for gut cells.
Some people are very prone to having Candida or yeast overgrowth, and this is particularly the case post-antibiotics. The reason being, antibiotics kill off the beneficial bacteria that would otherwise normally keep Candida in check. For this reason, you may want to consider anti-fungal supplements such as caprylic acid or a broad-spectrum herbal Candida supplement. For more information on how to be tested for fungal markers and to receive my personal recommendations for supplements such as those mentioned above, keep reading to #7 below. You may be the perfect candidate for my tried and true Get Your Gut Right Program!
Exercise can highly influence your gut microbiome health. Research has shown that exercise can have a positive effect on the microbiome. Those who engaged in exercise had increased beneficial microbial species and enriched microflora diversity.
Another study showed that women who participated in regular aerobic exercise for just 3 hours a week had increased levels of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Roseburia hominis, and Akkermansia muciniphila, F. prausnitzii and R. hominis.
Stress itself can damage the gut through stress hormones, inflammation and autonomic alterations. It can also prolong the time it takes to heal your gut after antibiotics and even encourage harmful bacteria to flourish.
Acute and chronic stress were found to negatively alter the gut microbiome in both diversity and robustness of bacteria. If you want to successfully replenish beneficial gut bacteria, then you’ll need to manage your stress well. It’s unrealistic to think that stress won’t happen. It’s a natural part of life for everyone! It’s what you do with your stress and how you deal with it that can either make you more resilient or slowly deteriorate your health.
Stress reduction measures can include: gentle movement, time outdoors, time spent with loved ones, sleep, journaling, reading, counseling or whatever else happens to speak to you.
If you are still having gut issues or other symptoms after antibiotics, please reach out to a functional healthcare provider. Stool testing may be your best move in order to really understand what’s going on inside the gut. Gut health can be tricky, and stool testing (along with other tests, possibly) allows for clear insight and a plan.
Even if two people were on the same antibiotic at the same time, they may have differences in strains of bacteria and bacterial levels, digestive symptoms and inflammation markers. Measures to improve your gut health truly must be personalized.
If you’re interested in a stool test, a personalized protocol based on the results and the opportunity to meet with an experienced provider on my team, then look no further than my tried and true Get Your Gut Right Program. It has helped hundreds of people alleviate unwanted symptoms and experience the joy of well being!
Finally, what everyone wants to know – How long does it take to heal the gut?! I don’t want to disappoint you, but it takes some time! And this length of time will be different based off each person’s bio-individuality as well as the length of the measures they take to heal the gut. This is why I recommend avoiding antibiotics in the first place unless they are necessary.
In general, I recommend allowing for at least 6 months for your gut to fully recover. But don’t underestimate the power of healthy lifestyle choices to quicken your recovery. If you truly focus on the measures given above, trust that you’re giving yourself your best bet to heal as quickly as possible.
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