Antibiotics are a powerful tool for treating bacterial infections, but they can also wreak havoc on the delicate balance of your gut microbiome. Antibiotics kill bacteria. That’s their job, after all. It’s how they’ve saved millions of lives over the last hundred years. But killing the bad guys responsible for your infection means you also kill good flora crucial for your health. When antibiotics kill off the beneficial bacteria in your gut, it can lead to a variety of digestive issues. There’s no definitive way to improve your gut health after antibiotics. The reality is that even though the science on the microbiome is advancing fast, there’s still so much we don’t know. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help restore your gut health after a course of antibiotics.
Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods help reset the gut microbiome by naturally restoring balance in the gut and allowing the good bacteria to repopulate. Fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi are natural sources of probiotics. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help replenish the good bacteria in your gut. They can also help reduce digestive symptoms caused by antibiotic use. Two additional fermented foods that you can easily find and add to your diet are kombucha and fermented pickles.
Include prebiotics in your diet. Good bacteria feast on fibers and nutrients in plant foods — these are prebiotics — and they turn these substances into nutrients that nourish your gut lining and keep your gut biome balanced. Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Foods high in prebiotics include asparagus, garlic, onions, and bananas.
Avoid processed foods. Processed foods are typically high in sugar and low in fiber, which can make it difficult for beneficial bacteria to colonize in the gut. Instead, focus on eating a diet rich in fresh, whole foods.
Take a probiotic supplement. If you’re unable to get enough probiotics from your diet, a probiotic supplement may help though the clinical evidence for the benefits of taking probiotics during and after antibiotic use is unsettled. Probiotic supplements contain a variety of beneficial bacteria strains, which could help replenish the good bacteria in your gut. When taking probiotics with antibiotics, it is important to wait at least two hours after consuming the antibiotics to take the probiotics. You should begin taking the probiotics the day that you begin antibiotics, and continue for a couple of weeks after the antibiotic course is through.
Get enough sleep. Getting adequate sleep is important for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. Studies have shown that poor sleep can lead to an imbalance in the bacteria in your gut, which can lead to digestive issues.
Regular exercise has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve digestive health. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
Reduce stress. Stress can lead to an imbalance in the bacteria in your gut. Try to incorporate stress-reducing activities into your daily routine, such as yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises.
Avoid antibiotics when possible. Antibiotics can be essential for treating bacterial infections, but they should only be used when absolutely necessary. Before taking antibiotics, speak to your doctor about alternative treatment options and ways to minimize the disruption to your gut microbiome.
By following these steps, you can help restore the balance of your gut microbiome and improve your gut health after a course of antibiotics. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress can all help to promote a healthy gut. Additionally, including probiotics and prebiotics in your diet, as well as taking a probiotic supplement, can help replenish the beneficial bacteria in your gut.