We are outnumbered 10:1 by bacteria. We have about ten trillion human cells and there are about one-hundred trillion bacteria that live in us and all over our skin. They have profound effects on our physiology and as a result research in this area has exploded in the last ten years.
Antibiotics were discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1929 when he noticed that a fungus produces a substance (Penicillin) that killed bacteria. The term “antibiotic” literally means “against life.” There was a delay of about 12 years before antibiotics were first used therapeutically. Since then they have saved countless lives.
Unfortunately, there are two main issues associated with antibiotics. First, they are overprescribed 1 which both prevents people’s immune systems from developing immunity, and can lead to antibiotic resistance. Second, when they are prescribed, people are not told what to do to mitigate some of the damaging side effects. Antibiotics kill all bacteria, not just the pathogenic bacteria. Thus, healthy gut flora has been shown to be altered two years after discontinuing antibiotics. 2
Below I will outline how to best avoid suffering from the sometimes harsh antibiotic side effects.
I believe that with every single prescription of antibiotics prescribed, the following information should accompanied:
Probiotics can actually be taken during and after antibiotic therapy to prevent side effects. Probiotics that you can take during antibiotic therapy are Saccharomyces Boulardii 3 4, VSL#3 5, and Lactobacillus GG 6. These specific probiotics have been shown to have beneficial effects during therapy.
After the course of antibiotics, a good multi-strain probiotic is recommended to reinoculate the gut.
2. Probiotic-Containing Foods
Probiotic supplements are a great way to get a therapeutic dose of good bacteria. It’s best however, to use both supplements and fermented foods as a long-term plan. Include the following foods in your diet to reinoculate the gut daily:
- Kombucha (it shouldn’t taste sweet)
- Pickels (vinegar-free)
- Homemade fermented vegetables
3. Heal the Gut
Good bacteria that line the whole digestive tract are critical for protecting the cells from damage. One of the side effects of antibiotics that isn’t commonly recognized by the medical community is leaky gut syndrome.
There are a few essential supplements that are critical for repairing a damaged gut:
- L-Glutamine – an amino acid that is the primary fuel for digestive cells, greatly decreases intestinal permeability. 7
- Zinc – increases gut integrity and repair. 8
- Vitamin D – enhances tight junctions, the bonds that hold digestive cells together. Think about your arms in the game “red-rover.” 9
A few simple preventative measures can prevent a whole lot of unwanted side effects.
- Collett, C. April, et al. “Parental knowledge about common respiratory infections and antibiotic therapy in children.” Southern medical journal 92.10 (1999): 971. ↩
- Jernberg, Cecilia, et al. “Long-term ecological impacts of antibiotic administration on the human intestinal microbiota.” The ISME journal 1.1 (2007): 56-66. ↩
- Bell, Stacey J., and Dominique Clark. “Saccharomyces boulardii: Time for Change in the Age of Cost-Effective Medicine.” Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences(2012). ↩
- McFarland, Lynne V., et al. “A randomized placebo-controlled trial of Saccharomyces boulardii in combination with standard antibiotics for Clostridium difficile disease.” Journal of the American Medical Association 271.24 (1994): 1913-1918. ↩
- Selinger, C. P., et al. “Probiotic VSL# 3 prevents antibiotic-associated diarrhoea in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Journal of Hospital Infection(2013). ↩
- Doron, Shira Idit, Patricia L. Hibberd, and Sherwood L. Gorbach. “Probiotics for prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.” Journal of clinical gastroenterology42 (2008): S58-S63. ↩
- Alternative Medicine Review Volume 6, Number 4 2001 ↩
- Gut. 2007 Feb;56(2):168-75 ↩
- Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol, 2008 Jan;294(1):G208-160. ↩