Gut Flora and Antibiotics
Gut Flora and Antibiotics
Today’s spotlight article is on digestive problems and how these can often occur after antibiotic use or as result of repeated ‘one-off’ courses or even as a result of prolonged use or intravenous use.
You’ve heard the adage ‘you are what you eat’ and that means good health is closely associated with our digestive processes and what we put in our bodies. This is because we need to have good, effective digestive systems to handle what we eat efficiently and this process becomes affected when our gut flora is ‘zapped’ by antibiotic use.
Intestinal Flora - Good Bacteria
We have on average around 100 trillion bacteria that are both good and bad and it’s vitally important that we keep the correct balance of beneficial gut flora (bacteria), to harmful gut flora as this is so important for long term health and vitality.
What can disrupt gut flora?
Intestinal gut bacteria is shaped by diet over our lifetime and they play a vital role in protecting our bodies against harmful ‘invaders’. They are thought to be closely linked to onset of infections and inflammatory diseases when the balance is out of alignment. Generally, poor lifestyle contributes to the negative balance of healthy gut flora and this can include too much alcohol, high sugar diets, environmental pollution and toxin exposure, poor digestion and not least, stress.
However, a great cause of concern for many people is antibiotic use and we get asked the following question so often…
How can antibiotic use affect the balance of gut flora?
There are a couple of ways that antibiotic use can affect the delicate balance of our gut flora. One is that the frequent use develops a resistance of gut bacteria towards infections and this is now more common than ever. Also, antibiotics can indiscriminately target both good and bad gut bacteria and have adverse effects on our digestive systems due to attacks by opportunistic bad bacteria that eventually thrive and this can really affect our health.
What are the symptoms of a growth of harmful bacteria?
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Abdominal pain especially after eating
- Yeast overgrowth
- Leaky gut or IBS
Research has shown that damage caused by antibiotics to our gut flora and subsequent digestive issues can last a lot longer than you might think! One major article https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4831151/ cites the need to phase out over-use of antibiotics in favour of alternative ways to restore balance of healthy gut flora and probiotics are included in this.
How to Replenish Good Bacteria after antibiotics
Firstly, it’s important to note that as with most things regarding our health, prevention is better than cure.
We discussed how important a healthy digestive system is and that means paying attention to what we put in it! A healthy diet is key to this so avoiding overly processed and fatty or sugary foods is a must. Much is now being made of the benefits of fermented or ‘probiotic foods’ like kefir, sauerkraut, tofu, kimchi and picked vegetables in increasing healthy gut flora. Just bear in mind that they generally don’t possess strains of bacteria that might be able to colonise our digestive systems, but they do good work so it’s worth giving them a try!
Of course, avoiding over-use of antibiotics is key but sometimes their use is unavoidable. Using supplements such as high strength probiotics with friendly bacteria may increase healthy gut flora and restore balance to our digestive systems with general use or with targeted use such as before or after antibiotic use for example.
Therefore, probiotics could help prevent digestive issues going forward and minimise potential problems that may occur as a result of antibiotic use.