Let’s face the facts. Despite the best intentions, the healthiest lifestyles, and the desire to stay as natural as possible, sometimes antibiotics creep into the equation because it was an emergency, it was life-threatening, someone didn’t know better, or it was presented as the only option. I get it. I also get the uncertainty moving forward for those who know just how detrimental that round of antibiotics may have been to their precious microbiome (aka all the healthy bacteria living in your body making you healthy!). So, let’s jump over the guilt trip because you can’t change it now! Let’s get down to what you can do today, and for how long to put yourself in the best position possible for the future of you microbiome moving forward.
I want to start by saying, while not ideal, many people have been on antibiotics and gone on to live a life full of health if they take their body ecology seriously. So, it’s not the end of the world, but it does put ownership in your court. To me that can be a blessing in disguise because I’m sort of a control freak. I do better with things I CAN control then things I can’t. So, consider this moment a blessing in disguise.
The post-antibiotic plan:
- Take a probiotic with 20 billion CFU and S. boulardii during and after antibiotics daily for 4-6 months. Giving your bacteria a crutch will be helpful despite the fact that probiotics are transient. I also know there has been some research suggesting that probiotics are not beneficial after antibiotic treatment, but clinically, I see otherwise, and there were some questions that I have regarding that study data. Although I do agree that a fecal transplant would likely be ideal and better! But unless you have a C. diff infection, you’re not likely going to have that option at your finger tips. I digress.
- Eat a variety of fermented foods daily. Sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kevita, plain kefir, plain yogurt, and even some brands of pickles (Bubbies) are the bees knees when it comes to probiotics in foods. Not only do you get the benefit of the food nutrition, but those probiotics are abundant and essential to everyone, whether you’ve taken an antibiotic or not! Shoot for at least one of these options daily, and ideally you’d continue this habit forever!
- Cut the sugar, alcohol, and processed foods. Opportunistic organisms can quickly become pathogens and overgrow quickly if the competition has just been wiped out! That means, in order to give the good guys a fighting chance to hold their own, you need to starve the potentially bad guys. They love sugar, alcohol acts like sugar, and processed foods are full of chemicals that kill good guys and sugars that feed bad guys. This, you guessed it, is probably a habit that should last a lifetime, too! I would say for 2 weeks following treatment, try to cut alcohol completely and keep your carbohydrates less 50g a day. Even some healthy carbs can act as a simple food source for pathogens. That can be short-term.
- Go outside. Eat from the garden, put your hands in the dirt, and try not to be too clean. I know, I sound crazy, but sterile isn’t good. We want nutritious foods without chemicals, fresh air and sunlight, some sample of soil-based organisms to help our ecology. You’re a glorified plant.
- Eat lots of organic plants and cook with coconut oil and grass-fed butter. Plants contain probiotics that feed your health bacteria, and getting them without chemicals that kill bacteria will tip the scales in your favor. Shoot for at least one big salad a day, and 2 non-starchy veggies as sides at dinner. Do this continuously throughout your life, but be diligent for at least 2 weeks. Use coconut oil and grass-fed butter to cook, as they are anti-microbial.
- Manage stress. Stress creates chemical changes in your body that isn’t great for gut health and it actually causes leaky gut. That can predispose you to bad bugs or foods getting into your system because they aren’t staying in the gut. That’s why yoga, meditation, prayer, or walks can help your gut environment stay tip top!
Most of these things aren’t rocket science and should be a part of a healthy lifestyle for a lifetime! The difference is being slightly more strict for the first month following antibiotics by restricting carbs, sugar and alcohol, in addition to being sure to get as many probiotics in as many ways as possible. It will take you potentially 4-6 months to restore your microbiome and some studies suggest it will never be the same. So, staying on the probiotic and fermented food bandwagon could be essential. What we do know, is that now is not the time to throw caution to the wind if we want to set ourselves up for a future of health despite an antibiotic mishap. Do your best and let go of that which you can’t control.
*If you’re interested in my post-antibiotic probiotic suggestions, feel free to check out the “store” and sign up for an account, which will give you access to that template in my online dispensary, since some of my suggestions are not available through retail channels.