How to Repair Your Gut After Antibiotics
Beginning with the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928, the pure magic of antibiotics with their rapid resolution of bacterial infections of all kinds caused many in the medical profession to become completely enamored with the drug based approach to illness. By 1940, antibiotics had come into widespread use causing both doctors and people to gradually forget about tried and true techniques for preventing illness such as the age old remedy cod liver oil.
This change in the medical paradigm has led in recent decades to abuse of these magical meds and the growing threat of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains. It has also caused in an epidemic of people with compromised gut function due to an imbalanced intestinal environment resulting from excessive exposure to antibiotics via industrially produced foods, medicine, and more recently, groundwater contamination.
While antibiotics clearly have their place in treating life threatening bacterial infections, their overuse has led to a plethora of modern day health challenges and autoimmune disease.
While complete avoidance of all antibiotic exposure would be the ideal, it is simply not practical in the majority of cases. Sometimes, antibiotics are necessary and when such a situation arises, it is imperative to protect the gastrointestinal tract from fungal or yeast overgrowth during treatment and to replenish beneficial gut bacteria when the course of antibiotics is complete.
While antibiotics effectively kill both pathogenic and beneficial bacterial strains with the exception of antibiotic-resistant species of streptococcus and other strains, they do not affect the many forms of yeast such as Candida albicans naturally found in the body in a nondominant role. They also have no effect on the newly emerging superfungus Candida auris.
As beneficial bacteria lining the gut wall are eliminated, yeasts like Candida albicans have the opportunity to overgrow and become dominant by attaching to the gut wall. Once attached to the gut wall, yeast has the ability to create lesions in the cell membranes. This can lead to the syndrome referred to as “leaky gut”, which increases the likelihood of foreign proteins entering the bloodstream resulting in inflammation, food intolerances, a myriad of digestive problems, autoimmune disease, and other associated imbalances.
If you or a loved one find yourself in a situation where antibiotics are critically necessary and cannot be avoided with holistic therapies, the following recommendations for support during and after antibiotic treatment can help minimize the damage to the gut environment and quickly rebuild gut flora at the conclusion of treatment.
These recommendations are provided to patients of the clinic Biodynamic Wellness which specializes in helping people recover and maintain optimal balance of the intestinal environment to encourage vibrant health free of chronic disease stemming from a compromised gut. The owner of Biodynamic Wellness, Kim Schuette CN, generously gave permission to share the recommendations listed below.
Please note that these recommendations are helpful whether the antibiotic treatment came from oral medication or IV treatment. Even IV antibiotics damage gut flora despite the fact that the medication does not make its way directly through the intestinal environment like oral meds do.
Diet During and After Antibiotics
- Include generous servings of lacto-fermented dairy and cultured vegetables during and after antibiotics whether oral or from an IV treatment. One tablespoon to half a cup of yogurt, kefir, kim-chi, sauerkraut, beet kvaas, etc. two to three times daily is advisable.
- Include gelatin rich foods such as homemade meat stocks and bone broths daily along with abundant vegetables, animal fats, coconut oil and skate or cod liver oil after antibiotics are complete. Powdered gelatin can be used to further boost homemade soups and sauces.
- Avoid all refined carbohydrates and fruit juices.
Supplemental Support During Antibiotics
- Saccharomyces boulardii: one capsule twice daily to discourage yeast overgrowth during antibiotic treatment when beneficial gut flora are being compromised.
Supplemental Support After Antibiotics
- After antibiotics, make sure to take a high quality probiotic like Bio-Kult, Ther-biotic Complete, HMF Forte or HMF Replete. Twice daily for 60 days.
- Saccharomyces boulardii: one capsule twice daily to discourage yeast overgrowth during the gut flora recovery phase after antibiotics – be sure to continue for 30 days.
- Note that not all beneficial bacteria are created equal for repairing the gut. Be sure to match specific probiotic strains to the function you wish it to perform and ailments you are working to resolve.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sources and More Information
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Sarah was awarded Activist of the Year at the International Wise Traditions Conference in 2010.
Sarah earned a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Economics from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Government (Financial Management) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mother to three healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, she writes about the practical application of Traditional Diet and evidence-based wellness within the modern household. Her work has been featured by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.