Nearly everyone has been prescribed an antibiotic at some time in their life, as antibiotics, in addition to preventing the spread of disease and reducing serious complications of disease, are commonly used to fight against bacterial infections like pneumonia and bronchitis.
What Exactly Do Antibiotics Do?
In short, they attack the bacteria.
When we say bacteria, we mean all bacteria – that means the bad and the good bacteria residing in your gut, otherwise known as your microbiome. The five pounds of bacteria that make up your microbiome are a complex mix of healthful and less healthful bacteria working hard to keep a healthy balance.
So while the infection may have been tended to, what also needs tending to is rebuilding and rebalancing your microbiome.
Why Balanced Gut Bacteria Matters
That balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut it is key to living a healthy life because your gut is connected to your:
- Immune System: Almost 70 percent of the immune system is regulated in your gut.
- Weight & Metabolism: The presence and absence of certain bacteria are connected to obesity.
- Digestion: Your digestive tract relies on a variety of foods moving through the intestines for nutrient absorption.
- Mood: Gut bacteria both produce and respond to neurochemicals—such as GABA, serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, acetylcholine and melatonin—that the brain also uses to regulate mood and cognition.
Maintaining- or in the case of post antibiotics, restoring – the body’s “good” versus “bad” bacterial balance is vital to keep your body functioning properly.
5 Ways to Maintain or Restore Good Gut Bacteria
1. Only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary.
Did you know that 30% of the antibiotics in U.S. outpatient settings are prescribed unnecessarily? As detailed by the CDC, this is problematic because it promotes antibiotic resistance, one of the most urgent threats to the public’s health.
Additionally, given how gut bacteria balance is so essential for health, it is reasonable to work with your healthcare provider to be judicious about whether waiting to see if antibiotics are truly necessary.
For more information on how to be #BeAntibioticsAware, visit the CDC’s website.
2. Avoid the foods that damage the intestinal lining.
Stick to whole foods in their natural form. Avoid highly processed and refined foods, as these contain chemicals from manufacturers that are often not absorbed well, such as the sweetener, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute even performed a study on just how damaging HFCS is to your intestinal lining.
3. Eat fiber.
There are two types of foods that help promote a healthy microbiome; the first is fiber.
As mentioned in LiveStrong.com, good gut health is associated with adequate fiber and micronutrients, found in foods such as dry beans (cooked soybeans, lentils, split peas and kidney, pinto, black, lima, garbanzo, navy and Great Northern bean), and vegetables and fruits (cooked spinach, artichokes, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, pears, raspberries and strawberries, brussels sprouts, asparagus, cabbage. Note: The types of fruits and vegetables will vary, depending on whether or not you’re FODMAP-sensitive.
4. Eat fermented foods.
The second type of food that helps promote good gut health is fermented. Specifically, foods with probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts aka “the good” microorganisms.
Probiotics already exist naturally in your gut. According to the Cleveland Clinic, probiotics assist in decreasing the number of “bad” bacteria in your gut that can cause infections or inflammation, replacing the body’s “good” bacteria, and restoring the body’s “good” versus “bad” bacterial balance, which then helps to keep your body functioning properly.
Some foods with probiotics include kombucha, miso, tempeh, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and pickles. The most well known food product that contains probiotics is yogurt. Or you could try making your own probiotics.
It’s valuable to know that some probiotics actually replace bacteria (kefir), while others encourage their growth (yogurt), because there are thousands of different strains of this bacteria. You can read more in-depth about the different types here.
5. Consider supplementing where you’re lacking.
Since probiotic health benefits are strain-specific, and not all strains are necessarily useful, you may want to consult a practitioner familiar with probiotics to discuss your options and to be sure supplementing is right for you. Some common strains of probiotics associated with gut health include:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus: The most well known probiotic and one of the most important for the health of the small intestine. Acidophilus inhibits pathogens, and produces such natural antibiotics as lactocidin and acidophilin, which enhance immunity.
- Bifidobacteria bifidum: Prevents pathogenic bacteria and yeast from invading. In addition, this species increase absorption of iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.
- Streptococcus thermophilus: Used to make yogurt. Breaking down lactose to create lactase, the enzyme that digests milk sugars, this species can help with lactose intolerance. Other Streptococcus strains: Cremoris, faecium and infantis.
- Enterococcus faecium: Has shown in studies to be helpful for diarrhea, shortening duration of symptoms. It kills pathogenic microbes, such as rotavirus. Studies have also shown this strain to lower LDL or bad cholesterol. This organism is very resistant to antibiotics.
How WellnessFX Can Help
See what WellnessFX practitioner and Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner, Tyler LaFleur, thinks when it comes to how athletes should consider caring for their gut health.
Regular blood screening is crucial for understanding your hormones, tracking progress, and measuring your associated risk, to hopefully stop a problem before it becomes a problem. Once you have the information, you can make educated, informed choices that fit your body’s specific and unique needs, from nutrition and lifestyle changes to hormone and risk monitoring.
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.