The 2-Step Plan For Restoring Your Gut After Antibiotics: A Doctor Explains
If you've visited your conventional doctor for, say, a sinus infection, you probably received an antibiotics course.
While they sometimes get a bad rep, let's not totally dismiss antibiotics. They can be lifesaving and in certain situations become absolutely necessary. They've saved millions of lives. Trust me, we do not want to live without antibiotics in the 21st century.
What happens when you take antibiotics?
Unfortunately, antibiotics today are overprescribed and often unnecessary. They damage your gut ecosystem or microbiome, made up of 100 trillion bacterial bugs that live inside you and outnumber your cells an astounding 10 to one.
One study found a one-week course of antibiotics could negatively affect your microbiome for potentially a whole year. Other studies link long-term antibiotic use to depressed immunity, higher stress levels, behavior problems, and obesity.
One reason they become a problem is that while antibiotics wipe out the bad stuff, they also destroy good bacteria.
What's the deal with "good bacteria"?
That becomes a real problem because while your gut has trillions of bacteria, they collectively contain at least 100 times as many genes as you do. That bacterial DNA in your gut outnumbers your own DNA by a very large margin.
Among its functions, this bacterial DNA controls immunity, regulates digestion and intestinal function, protects against infections, and even produces vitamins and nutrients.
Antibiotics destroy these beneficial bacteria but also encourage overgrowth of bad bugs, creating numerous problems including mood disorders, food allergies, fatigue, skin issues, and digestive issues.
And the "bad bacteria"?
Too many bad bugs can also trigger cravings for sugary, processed junk foods, leading to weight gain and chronic disease like type 2 diabetes.
When patients see me for the first time, I ask if they have a history of taking antibiotics. More often than not, I've learned overuse leads to numerous problems including leaky gut.
While occasionally necessary, I highly recommend conferring with a functional practitioner to discuss antibiotics alternatives (including allowing infections to heal on their own).
If you must use antibiotics, I recommend two things before and after using them:
1. Add in probiotics and prebiotics.
Eat a low-glycemic, whole-foods diet and take quality probiotics and prebiotics. A high-quality, multistrain probiotic helps populate your gut with beneficial bacteria. Prebiotics, a form of soluble fiber, also feed good bugs and include foods like onions, garlic, resistant starch, sweet potatoes, dandelion greens, and jicama. My favorite prebiotic is potato starch, specifically Bob's Red Mill potato starch. Add about 1 teaspoon in water and gradually work up to 2 to 4 teaspoons.
2. Focus on gut repair.
This especially becomes crucial after you're finished using antibiotics. Utilize gut-healing nutrients including L-glutamine, omega-3 fats, vitamin A, and zinc to repair your gut lining so it can resume its normal, natural functions. Digestive enzymes can help you digest your food better.
Ready to learn more about how brain health and your diet are intimately connected? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman.