If you’ve ever taken a course of antibiotics then you’re probably familiar with some of the side effects of these drugs, including: gastrointestinal distress, overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the intestines and the resulting diarrhea. For many people the aftermath of taking antibiotics is as bad as the health problems that led them to take the drugs in the first place.
That’s because antibiotics indiscriminately kill bacteria in the intestines: both good and bad. The first step in healing your body after antibiotic use is to restore a healthy microbial balance. Antibiotics, while frequently helpful in killing harmful bacterial infections, also sway the overall gut bacterial balance by killing beneficial microbes. To help restore the microbial balance you’ll want to increase the diversity of beneficial bacteria as well the numbers of specific probiotics.
The best way to improve the diversity of beneficial bacteria is to eat more fermented foods. Sorry, yogurt lovers, while yogurt can help boost the overall numbers of beneficial bacteria, it isn’t great at improving the diversity of microbes since it usually has only two to three strains of probiotics, provided it contains live cultures. If you choose yogurt, avoid sweetened varieties as the sugar will also feed the harmful bacteria that are already overgrown.
Some of the best fermented foods that boost bacterial diversity in your gut include: kimchi, sauerkraut (choose types with live cultures in the refrigerator section), pickles (choose naturally-fermented options) and kombucha. Try to eat a small, but increasing amounts of fermented foods every day.
You may also benefit from a probiotic supplement, preferably one that contains strains of probiotics that have research-proven benefits against antibiotic-related symptoms, including: Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. casei, L. plantarum, L. bulgaricus, L. reuteri and S. thermophilus.
Research in the World Journal of Gastroenterology also shows that the higher the dose of probiotics, the lower the incidence and duration of antibiotic-related symptoms like diarrhea. Ideally, it is best to take probiotic supplements and fermented foods prior to or at the start of a course of antibiotics, but if you are already taking antibiotics or still suffering from their effects after you finished taking them, it is still a good idea to get started on probiotics.
While diarrhea during or after antibiotic use may not seem like a big deal, it demonstrates the rampant destruction of important intestinal bacteria, which can set the stage for other health conditions. A growing number of health conditions ranging from allergies toarthritis have been linked to gut health, so restoring the integrity of the gut and its beneficial bacteria colonies and diversities is essential.
Of course, you should discuss any changes to your health regime with your physician.