Sometimes antibiotics are unavoidable and are the best course of treatment. Antibiotics are important when you have a serious bacterial infection. They are a type of medication that works by killing the infection or preventing it from spreading. However, they can sometimes cause side effects, including diarrhea, liver disease and changes to the gut microbiota.
For example, excessive antibiotic use can damage your liver. One study has shown that antibiotics are the most common medication to cause liver injury. Antibiotics may also have negative effects on the trillions of bacteria and other microbes living in your intestines. These bacteria are collectively known as the gut microbiota. In addition to killing disease-causing bacteria, antibiotics may kill healthy bacteria. In fact, only one week of antibiotics can change the makeup of the gut microbiota for up to a year.
Taking antibiotics can alter the gut microbiota, which can lead to antibiotic-associated diarrhea, especially in children. Fortunately, a number of studies have shown that taking probiotics, or live healthy bacteria, can reduce this risk. One review of 23 studies including nearly 400 children found that taking probiotics at the same time as antibiotics could reduce the risk of diarrhea by more than 50%. However, given that probiotics are usually bacteria themselves, they can also be killed by antibiotics if taken together. Thus, it is important to take antibiotics and probiotics a few hours apart. Probiotics should also be taken after a course of antibiotics in order to restore some of the healthy bacteria in the intestines that may have been killed.
Certain foods can also help restore the gut microbiota after damage caused by antibiotics. Fermented foods are produced by microbes and include sauerkraut, pickle relish, chutney, yogurt, buttermilk, sour cream, kombucha and kimchi, among others. Eating more fermented foods doesn’t just help repopulated gut flora, but helps keep your intestinal tract strong. Therefore, eating fermented foods may help to repopulate gut flora and restore your digestive system to its optimal health. Other studies have shown that taking either normal or probiotic-supplemented yogurt can reduce diarrhea in people taking antibiotics.
Fiber can’t be digested by your body, but it can be digested by your gut bacteria, which helps stimulate their growth. As a result, fiber may help restore healthy gut bacteria after a course of antibiotics. High-fiber foods include: whole grains (porridge, whole grain bread, brown rice), nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, berries, broccoli, peas, bananas and artichokes.
Studies have shown that foods that contain dietary fiber are not only able to stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut, but they may also reduce the growth of some harmful bacteria. However, dietary fiber can slow the rate that the stomach empties. In turn, this can slow the rate at which medicines are absorbed. Therefore, it is best to temporarily avoid high-fiber foods during antibiotic treatment and instead focus on eating them after stopping antibiotics.
Unlike probiotics, which are live microbes, prebiotics are foods that feed the good bacteria in your gut. Many high-fiber foods are prebiotic. The fiber is digested and fermented by healthy gut bacteria, allowing them to grow. However, other foods are not high in fiber but act as prebiotics by helping the growth of healthy bacteria. Cocoa contains antioxidant polyphenols that have beneficial prebiotic effects on the gut microbiota. Other prebiotic foods include: leeks, garlic, honey, bananas, onions, chicory root, and jerusalem artichokes. A small amount of one of these prebiotic foods should be eaten daily in addition to probiotic foods in order to promote the growth of good bacteria within your digestive system.
While many foods are beneficial during and after antibiotics, some should be avoided. For example, studies have shown that it can be harmful to consume grapefruit and grapefruit juice while taking certain medications, including antibiotics. Eating grapefruit can prevent the body from breaking down the medication properly. This can be harmful to your health.
Foods supplemented with calcium may also affect antibiotic absorption. Studies have shown that foods supplemented with calcium can reduce the absorption of various antibiotics.
If antibiotics have helped you to recover from infectious disease, it’s critical to continue your recovery. Whatever you do, don’t ignore your gut, whether you have had to take a course of antibiotics or not.
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How to Restore Gut Health After Taking Antibiotics - Foods to Consume During and After Treatment