Can antibiotics permanently damage the gut flora?
New research shows that taking a course of antibiotics reduces the number and type of beneficial bacteria in the gut. It can take 6 months or more to recover the number of gut microbes you had before taking antibiotics. But this research also highlights the rather disturbing fact that some species of bacteria will NEVER recover and will be absent from your gut forever.
So why is this a problem?
Humans were designed to have a very diverse and flourishing community of beneficial microbes. These microbes are part of our immune system and keep us healthy and safe as they respond to organisms that can cause infection and disease. People in traditional societies who have not been exposed to antibiotics, other medications and processed foods have been shown to have much greater diversity in gut bacteria than people living in more “modern” societies.
Healthy, diverse gut bacteria can keep us at a healthy weight, improve our mood, make us feel more energetic, and reduce pain. And they are, of course, vital to immunity and the health of the digestive tract, preventing autoimmune disease, infections, leaky gut and conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and IBD.
Antibiotics can be useful and even life-saving but they have long-term consequences for our gut health. Even one round of antibiotics reduces the diversity of your gut microbes. But most of us have had many rounds of antibiotics, leading to a less and less diverse gut ecosystem over time. It can be nearly impossible to recover these beneficial microbes once they have been lost. This ultimately can damage our gut health and immune system and puts us at greater risk of disease.
So what to do? Here are few steps you can take…
Use antibiotics only when really necessary. Antibiotics are totally ineffective against viruses and not needed in certain uncomplicated infections. Check with your doctor for the latest recommendations. Natural medicine can be extremely helpful in these situations.
Prepare an immune-boosting natural medicine kit and be ready at the first sign of illness to self-treat with nutrients and herbs.
Consume probiotic-rich foods like plain yogurt that has been cultured for 24 hours and fermented vegetables like raw sauerkraut.
Consider taking a probiotic supplement that is good quality, high-dose and multi-strain to help support gut health. Don't skimp on quality here, there have been products that have been shown to be totally ineffective and others that contain pathogenic organisms.
Avoid gut microbiome disruptors like artificial sweeteners, common medications like ibuprofen and oral contraceptives and a diet high in simple sugars and processed carbs like breads/cookies/sweets/soda.
Eat a well-rounded diet that includes an array of organic fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and beans. These help create a more diverse gut ecosystem over time. :)