Antibiotics are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they've helped us cure many bacterial infections that used to prove fatal. On the other hand, they don't discriminate between bad and good bacteria—and just one course can disrupt your healthy gut flora for up to a year.
How Antibiotics Affect Your Gut
A recent study by mBio gave participants either a placebo, or one of four commonly-prescribed antibiotics—clindamycin, ciprofloxacin, minocycline, or amoxicillin. Researchers found that while the oral bacteria of every patient recovered quite quickly, just one week of antibiotic use significantly affected some participants' gut microbiomes.
Specifically, clindamycin and ciprofloxacin both severely affected the production of butyrate in the gut. This fatty acid, produced by healthy bacteria, is essential for preventing intestinal inflammation, carcinogenesis, and oxidative stress in the gut. What's more, the effects of clindamycin lasted up to four months, while the ramifications of ciprofloxacin were still evident after a full year.
According to the study, "even a single antibiotic treatment in healthy individuals contributes to the risk of resistance development and leads to long-lasting detrimental shifts in the gut microbiome."
How to Recover After Antibiotics
Fortunately, certain foods can help you restore your gut and return you to a healthier state of mind. Here are five types of food that will repair your damaged gut microbiome after antibiotic treatments:
- Probiotics (e.g. milk kefir, yogurt, water kefir) – introduces more friendly bacteria into the gut, which aid in digestion and regulate your immune system.
- Prebiotics (e.g. garlic, onions, bananas, and Bimuno supplements) – helps encourage and "feed" good bacteria growth in the gut.
- Bone broth/gelatin – contains glutamine, which is essential in restoring your gut's epithelial lining.
- Fermented food (e.g. kombucha, kimchi, fermented vegetables) – these introduce living probiotic cultures that help repair your gut.
- Real, healthy food – a balanced diet will help mend your gut, with a healthy balance of grains, protein, healthy saturated fats, and vegetables.
The bottom line is to listen to your body and use antibiotic treatments only when they're absolutely necessary. A healthy diet with plenty of pre- and probiotics will make sure that your gut can bounce back, even after a serious infection.