FYI: This Is How Long It Takes Your Gut To Recover From Antibiotics
Let's make this very clear: We are not anti-antibiotics around here. They are a necessary part of our reality, and a lifesaving one at that.
That being said, antibiotics can wreak a special sort of havoc on your gut health: They kill every single bacteria in their wake—not just the ones causing your strep throat, skin infection, or pneumonia but even the beneficial bugs—which can lead to less microbial diversity and digestive issues.
How long does it take your gut to recover from antibiotics?
As Pedre declares on the mindbodygreen podcast, "It takes six months for your gut microbiome to recover from a five-day Z-pak. "For five days of Cipro [aka, Ciprofloxacin], which is very commonly prescribed to women for urinary tract infections, it takes the gut 12 months." And we're talking just five days of antibiotics!
Now, we repeat: Sometimes taking antibiotics is absolutely necessary, and we would never recommend ignoring your doctor's orders. But it's important to think about the gut health implications of consistent rounds and especially longer courses.
How to help your gut recover
That doesn't mean your gut health is doomed forever. It may take some time and patience, but you can restore your microbiome and get your gut to a better place. If you are currently on antibiotics, do as your doctor tells you and finish your round! Then follow Pedre's tips to optimize your gut health below:
Eat fermented foods.
Fermented foods are created through fermentation (duh), in which components of foods, like the natural sugars, are broken down by yeast and bacteria and result in food chock-full of probiotics (aka, the good bugs). Some examples include kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut (Pedre's personal favorite), miso, and yogurt, plus others.
While we recommend getting enough fiber into your diet, you might want to start with fermented foods if you have an inflamed gut. Pedre references a study2 in which researchers measured microbial diversity in folks who ate five to eight servings of fiber per day, versus those who ate 6 cups of fermented foods per day.
"What [they found] is that a high-fermented-foods diet increased microbial diversity in that group and lowered 19 inflammatory markers," he explains. The fiber-rich group did see positive effects on microbial function and immune response, but it's interesting that the fermented foods had such a significant effect on inflammation.
Both fiber-rich and fermented foods are necessary for a flourishing microbiome. However, if you have an unhealthy, inflamed gut (like, say, after a round of antibiotics), you might want to especially load up on the latter.
Take a probiotic.
Fermented foods are naturally chock-full of probiotics, but if you want to introduce even more healthy gut bugs, you might want to consider a probiotic supplement, too. See, probiotic supplements contain beneficial bacteria that can help reinoculate the gut after antibiotics have killed off some of the good bugs.
"I'm a big believer in taking probiotic-type things that can help protect the gut and the gut microbiome," says Pedre. "I will usually have someone take a probiotic post [antibiotics]."
Just make sure the formula you choose includes meaningful levels of high-quality, clinically studied strains. Here, you can find a list of superb options, all backed by a nutrition Ph.D.
"When you ask most people, 'How many servings of vegetables do you get in a day?' The average answer, sadly, that I've heard as a doctor over the last 20 years is maybe two to three servings," Pedre explains. "Ideally, we should be getting five to eight, even nine, servings per day." Here, you can find creative ways to consume more vegetables daily, in case you need some meal inspiration.
Nourishing your gut is always a good idea, but it's especially important after a round of antibiotics. There are plenty more gut-supporting tips where these came from, so make sure to check out our full gut health guide for an in-depth routine—consider Pedre's tips above your basic nonnegotiables.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and more. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.