How to Protect Your Gut on Antibiotics
One of the most common questions I get is "what can I do to take care of my gut while I'm on antibiotics?"
Most of us will need antibiotics at some point and that's okay. Knowing how to take care of your gut to minimize the negative impact of antibiotics is key. To help you do that, I'm pulling together all my tips for protecting your gut on antibiotics so you can find them in one place.
While you're taking antibiotics, they will be working hard to kill the bad bacteria causing your infection. Unfortunately, it is likely they'll take some of the good guys down too, so here are five steps you can take to show your gut health some extra love during and after a round of antibiotics.
Reduce Sugar Intake
Most of your good gut bacteria thrive on fibre. The bad guy, on the other hand, tend to prefer sugars and refined starches. Yeast, in particular, loves sugar which may be why antibiotic use is so often associated with vaginal and oral yeast infections. When the good bacteria, like Lactobacillus, are low in numbers and access to sugar is high, you've got the recipe for yeast overgrowth.
Limiting sugar to less than 20 grams per day is always a good idea for general health. But during a course of antibiotics and for a few weeks after, do your best to limit sugar as much as possible. Focus on whole foods, mostly veggies, proteins, and slow digesting carbs like beans and lentils. Get sugar from low glycemic fruits like apples and berries.
My 7-Day High fibre Meal Prep Plan is a great example of how to eat while on antibiotics (and in general!).
Eat Fermented Foods
Some foods naturally contain live bacterial cultures that support your gut while on antibiotics. While you're taking antibiotics, it's a great idea to include these foods daily. Here are a few of my favourites:
When you're buying fermented foods, always ensure the package has the words: raw, unpasteurized, or live active cultures. These foods are usually lacto-fermented so they contain mostly Lactobacillus Not all fermented foods contain probiotics, beer and wine are fermented but do not contain probiotics.
Take High Quality Probiotics
While fermented foods are great, they rarely contain therapeutic doses of probiotics. Taking a high quality probiotic supplement means you can get a targeted dose of specific strains shown to be helpful against antibiotic-related digestive issues.
In general, look for a probiotic that is at least 50 billion CFUs and contains Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces species. Take a couple hours after taking antibiotics. Here are some of my favourite formulas available without a healthcare professionals guidance:
Some of my go-to clinical formulas include:
Designs for Health ProbioMed
Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic
Cyto-Matrix Multi-Strain 50
Microbiome Labs MegaSporeBiotic
It may be beneficial to take probiotics for about 30 days after you finish your antibiotics while your gut flora are re-establishing themselves.
While you're avoiding the foods that feed the "bad" guys, be sure to include lots of foods that feed the good guys and help them re-colonize your gut. Prebiotics are food for bacteria, you can find them mostly in veggies and fruit, especially:
Bananas (especially green bananas)
I recommend making stewed apples to get an extra dose of gut-healing pectin. To do this, cut up one apple with the skin on. Add it to a pot along with your favourite spices like cinnamon, ginger, cardamom (this is optional). Add water to the pot just enough to cover the apples, then bring to a boil. Simmer until the skin of the apples develops a sheen. You can mash the apples into the liquid or eat the apples and drink the liquid. This cooking method helps bring out the pectin in apples.
Support Your Liver
While you're killing bacteria in your body, they will release endotoxins. Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) are found in the outer layer of gram-negative bacteria and during antibiotic treatment, a higher amount of LPS are released. The liver is responsible for cleaning up this extra mess, so show it some extra love to help it manage the increased workload.
Foods that support the liver include bitter greens (arugula, radicchio, dandelion, beet greens), beet root, grapefruit, and lemon. Try to include a few of these foods daily.
Taking a supplement like NAC during antibiotic treatment can help your live process the increase endotoxin load. It also works as a biofilm disruptor, which can increase the efficacy of some antibiotics. Always check with a healthcare professional before taking NAC.