For most of us, winter is not just associated with hot cocoa, cozy fireplaces, dazzling lights, and a chance to catch up with the relatives. It also comes with runny noses, achy bodies, and persistent coughs that just don’t seem to go away. Great. Our demanding schedules now include more doctor visits, tests, and prescriptions. Oh, winter.
Because we are *ahem* used to instant gratification and are eager for a quick fix, it’s not surprising that antibiotics are one of the more commonly prescribed medicines during these colder months. So common, that it is estimated that 4 out of 5 Americans are prescribed antibiotics each year. While they are effective at clearing up bacterial infections…A) We don’t always have a bacterial infection going on, and B) antibiotics are extremely damaging to your gut.
So even though you may begin to feel better, your intestinal tract is suffering from some pretty major consequences.
What exactly is going on down there? There are 100 trillion microorganisms that line your intestinal tract and are responsible for proper digestion, immunity, and mental health. In fact, 60-80% of your immune system is located in your gut, and 90% of your neurotransmitters are produced there. (What’s a neurotransmitter? They help to regulate mood – example: serotonin – AKA the happy hormone. If you are not properly producing serotonin, you will feel bouts of depression.)
Anyway, maintaining a proper balance of bacteria and other microorganisms is crucial to the wellbeing of each of these areas.
Taking antibiotics is … kind of like setting off an atomic bomb in your gut. Because antibiotics are not able to differentiate between good bacteria (probiotics) and the bad bacteria that are responsible for your infection, they will go in there and wipe everything out. This significantly disrupts that beautiful balance you (hopefully) had, and leaves you susceptible to the overgrowth of harmful organisms (e.g. candida), a weakened immune system, digestion problems, leaky gut, and a handful of other complications.
What to do.
Don’t worry. There is good news in this post. I hate being a Debbie Downer. You can restore your gut health after taking antibiotics and also be better prepared for any future decisions regarding the use of them.
1. Avoid processed and packaged foods
...and limit the consumption of foods high in sugar, trans fat, additives, and preservatives. Your gut will be especially susceptible to the harmful effects of these foods at this time. Instead, focus on eating healthy and repairing the damage with nourishing foods like bone broth. Bone broth contains a wide variety of minerals and a specific amino acid called glutamine, which can help repair the lining of the gut and restore normal gut function.
2. Recreate that delicate bacterial balance
...by replenishing the probiotics and prebiotics (which promote the growth of probiotics) in your gut. You can do this by consuming cultured foods (and) or supplements. The following foods are rich in probiotics: kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, raw cheese, apple cider vinegar, tempeh, live cultured yogurt, miso, natto, and brine-cured olives. You can also take a probiotic supplement to naturally boost the good probiotics in your system. Ora Organics makes a high quality plant-based pre-and-probiotic capsule or powder that contains 20 billion probiotics.
3. Try a natural antibiotic next time!
Did you know? - raw garlic contains allicin which is a powerful antifungal, antibiotic, and antiviral. Oil of Oregano is also a good choice because it contains antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. (Both won’t taste great, but, hey they’ve been shown to work!)
4. Make a conscious decision.
Because The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than half of all antibiotics used in this country are prescribed inappropriately, it is important to note that antibiotics are ONLY effective against bacterial infections (e.g. strep throat, some pneumonia and sinus infections) and NOT viral infections (e.g. the common cold, most coughs and the flu). So, be picky with your prescriptions, your gut will thank you!