A couple of months ago I had to go through an intense few months of antibiotic treatment. Though I had gone to the dentist and doctor regularly, an infection in my jaw bone was missed repeatedly over the course of 2 years.
The infection had spread over that time span and had become fairly serious. I was scheduled for surgery and was put on a course of long-term antibiotics. This included one month of at-home IV antibiotics. I administered my own infusions every 6 hours around the clock.
When Antibiotics are Unavoidable
The best thing to do would be to avoid antibiotics all together, but this is not always an option. Sometimes antibiotics are the best course of treatment. I feel that was the case with my infection, as 2 years of my body fighting an unknown infection was far more detrimental to my health.
I am lucky that I had previously been focusing on eating real food and plenty of probiotic foods, as it saved me a lot of trouble. Even so, I did suffer some effects from the antibiotics and my gut needed healing.
Symptoms of Bad Gut Health:
- Irregular bowel movements
- Gas or bloating
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Repeat yeast/candida infections
- Feeling generally unwell
If you know that you will be on a course of antibiotics, it’s best to start the following healing protocols as soon as possible.
Don’t worry if you can’t do everything right now. Anything you do to promote gut health before, during, and after antibiotic treatment is better than nothing.
Here are 5 things you can do to heal your gut after antibiotics:
1.) Real Food
The last thing your body needs while it’s trying to heal is a bombardment of additives, preservatives, trans fats, and otherwise “fake” foods. What is Real Food? It is simply any food in it’s most naturally obtainable form.
What to do:
Limit your consumption of sugar and simple carbs, as bad bacteria in the gut thrive on these foods. You may find it best to eliminate these foods altogether while you are healing from antibiotics.
Stop eating processed and packaged foods, or limit your consumption of these foods as much as possible if you cannot stop eating them completely. Replace them with fresh ingredients whenever possible. Check labels and look for healthier alternatives to your favorite foods.
Probiotics are good bacteria that are needed by the body to promote good digestion and gut health.
Antibiotics don’t just kill the infection and bad bacteria within our bodies. They destroy the probiotics (the good bacteria) as well.
Because these good bacteria are being destroyed, it’s important that we replace them as quickly as possible. It’s also important that we introduce as many varieties of probiotics into our bodies as possible. The more variety we have in our system, the better it is able to keep the bad bacteria out.
“Antibiotics don’t just kill the infection and bad bacteria within our bodies. They destroy the probiotics (the good bacteria) as well.”
The most widely known strain of probiotic bacteria is Lactobacillus, which is sold in over the counter probiotic supplements and can also be found in foods such as yogurt, cheese, and naturally fermented foods such as pickles (not the vinegar pickles commonly found in stores).
Lactobacillus is just one strain of probiotic among many, and as I said before, the more strains of probiotics that populate your digestive system the better.
The best way to get a variety of probiotic strains into your digestive system is by eating a variety of fermented and cultured foods, which are foods that have been preserved and populated with naturally occurring strains of good bacteria.
Probiotic Foods to Consider:
Yogurt – For the complete beginner, I recommend starting with yogurt. If you’re buying it from the store, make sure it’s plain organic yogurt with no added sugar or other ingredients. Or you can make homemade yogurt for much cheaper.
Milk Kefir – If you are used to yogurt, and you’re ready to go for even more healing, I recommend milk kefir. While yogurt typically only has a few strains of probiotics, kefir usually has anywhere from 24-36. This makes it much more potent and effective at repopulating the gut with good bacteria.
Water Kefir – Often known as the “healthy soda”, water kefir feeds on sugar and produces dozens of strains of healthy probiotics. It is popular because it can be flavored in many different ways to make a pleasant probiotic drink.
Kombucha – This naturally fermented tea drink is made from a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) that feeds on the sugar and caffeine in the tea.
(learn how to make your own kombucha)
Fermented Vegetables – Before we began canning, freezing, and pickling foods with vinegar, our ancestors used a more natural approach to preserving vegetables. This process is called fermentation, and it can be done just as easily today. In fact, you will be surprised at just how easy it is!
Popular fermented vegetables include fermented pickles, fermented salsa, and homemade sauerkraut, which can all be easily made at home. If you don’t have the desire to make your own, you can buy fermented vegetables from a few select companies.
How to Adjust to Probiotic Foods
If you are not used to taking probiotic foods, or your gut health is very imbalanced following antibiotics, you will need to ease into eating probiotic foods slowly.
Prebiotic foods have a very important job when it comes to healing your gut. Basically, prebiotics are nondigestible food ingredients that make it easier for beneficial bacteria to thrive within your digestive system.
Many foods do this, but prebiotics are special in that they not only create a good environment for good bacteria, but selectively stimulate the growth of these good bacteria.
Identified Prebiotics Foods:
- Chicory root
- Jerusalem artichokes
A small amount of one of these prebiotic foods should be eaten daily in addition to probiotic foods in order to promote the growth of good bacteria within your digestive system.
4.) Bone Broth and Gelatin
Bone broth and gelatin can help your body heal and restore the mucosal lining in your digestive system (which can be damaged during antibiotic use or through poor diet). They are also anti-inflammatory foods.
Bone broth already contains gelatin, so if you are consuming homemade bone broth you will not necessarily need to supplement your diet with other forms of gelatin. Most commercial gelatin comes from animal sources, so those who do not consume bone broth can eat foods made with gelatin to reap the benefits.
Learn how to make bone broth.
If you want to learn more about how bone broth can benefit your health, I highly recommend Broth: Elixir of Life by Loving Our Guts.
5.) Healing Diet
Those who find only limited healing with the above suggestions or who want to heal faster may choose to eat an intensive healing diet. These healing diets are usually known as “gut healing diets”, the most notable being the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet.
My family followed the GAPS diet for a few months in 2012 in order to kickstart our healing from various digestive issues, allergies, and more. I credit the GAPS diet for teaching much of what I know about healing foods and reverted to much of what I had learned from GAPS in order to heal from my use of long term antibiotics.
I would love to hear your experiences or suggestions in healing from antibiotic use int he comments.
Are you trying to heal your gut?
image credit: Tips Times