Updated: Dec 31, 2019
'Tis the season for Antibiotics...a necessary evil.
"But, aren't they supposed to be helping us out?!"
In serious cases, where our body just can't fight off a dangerous bacterial infection that can do more harm, YES, ABSOLUTELY! But in many cases, doctors hand over antibiotic prescriptions like they're candy and it's OUR GUTS that are punished for it.
One of the biggest reasons is for the common cold. This is a problem because colds are viruses and have nothing to do with bacteria.
"What do you mean, ladies!? You're not doctors!"
No, we aren't doctors, but we are gut health fanatics, and we recognize the gut as the place where real health starts. Our clients cannot be as successful or feel as good in their fitness journeys without a healthy gut...bottom line. And we are here to tell you that while antibiotics are reliable killers of dangerous pathogens, they also kill the good guys!
Antibiotics work by blocking important processes in bacteria that either kill the bacteria in it's tracks or stop them from multiplying. Unfortunately, antibiotics can't tell the difference between the “bad” bacteria and the “good” bacteria that belong in your gut. Instead, antibiotics come through like a tsunami, destroying everything in their path.
These bad boys can completely eliminate and extinct up to 30% of your gut flora species over just 5 days of use. These can be some you've collected over your life, that you are now unable to get back...ever. Antibiotics alter our gut flora significantly, and therefore should not be taken lightly. With overuse of antibiotics, the microbes in our gut become less diverse and the abilities of the bacteria left behind may be altered in their function and efficiency. Why does this matter? Because diversity and a thriving ecosystem of bacteria allows us to break down a greater variety of foods, helps to balance hormones, and boost immunity.
Think of the bacteria in your gut like two armies: the good and the bad. The good are peacemakers who want harmony and don't bring big machinery to the battlefield...they are less muscle and more brains. The bad is the muscle, and they come with the machinery and tools and strength. Some bad bacteria in our gut is good, but we need A LOT more good bacteria to keep it in check.
The more you take antibiotics, the more these hearty bad bacteria develop resistance to the medicine and stay around in your gut for years. When the number of good bacteria in your gut falls, it leaves you susceptible to the overgrowth of other organisms, like yeast, which we know causes gut discomfort and bacterial imbalances such as Candida (the most common form). Yeast is opportunistic, which means that when given the chance, it will grow and multiply, especially when given its favorite food source – sugar.
Ironic how sugar is HUGE this time of year...looking at you, Holidays! Just another reason to indulge only when it counts!
When yeast starts to multiply, it can damage the lining of your intestinal walls, leading to leaky gut. Awesome! Sounds really sexy, doesn't it?
So what are we saying here? Not to take antibiotics?! Heck no!!! Listen to your doctors, but BE SMART, BE PROACTIVE, and ASK QUESTIONS. Do you really need it? Are you too reliant on it to get better time and time again? Or even: Do you need to make some lifestyle changes so you stop getting sick?!
So, say you DO have to take an antibiotic - it might help to know how on Earth you can assist your body to recover while making up for some of the damage? Here's a few suggestions:
1. Take your pre and probiotics - 30 billion minimum and make sure it's from as natural of a source as possible. Getting it from your food is really the best.
2. Stay away from sugar - Sugar feeds yeast, leading to Candida and leaky gut!
3. Choose organically raised meats - non-organic meat usually includes antibiotics so the animals don't die from infections they get from being in dirty, enclosed, crowded pens. Same goes for farm-raised fish. Go for the wild-caught.
4. Try Milk Thistle - Milk Thistle helps to support your liver which has the job of breaking down the medications you take. (Word of caution though: if you experience loose stool on antibiotics, this can make it worse...skip to suggestion 5.)
5. Drink Ginger Tea / Consume White Rice - use if you're experiencing loose stool symptoms which can sometimes come with antibiotic use. We want to support calming your tummy down as much as possible so food processes completely and inflammation of the gut is limited. White rice also binds with stool, so it will help to slow things down.
There you have it...antibiotics = a necessary evil! Like any medicine, use antibiotics when really needed and just be careful not to overuse them. Listen to your doctors, but ask questions. And when the time comes you DO need them, support yourself in that process. We can't control everything, but we can at least try!