When your body is trying to fight an infection, your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics. Yet as most of us know, the medication itself can take a toll on your health and your gut bacteria. Antibiotics are designed to kill off bacteria in your body, and while that's a good thing in conditions like strep throat or bronchitis, antibiotics can't distinguish the difference between bad bacteria and the helpful ones that live in your gut and mouth. So, these few key tips will help you change your diet and lifestyle, keeping you healthy over the course of your antibiotic treatment while replacing your essential bacteria.
1. Avoid major allergens and sugars
While taking your course of antibiotics, there are some foods you are definitely going to want to avoid, mainly gluten, dairy, and sugar. These are all very common allergens, especially if there is a concern present, helping to remove any potential sources of inflammation or potential disease processes.
The less sugar a person eats, the less sugar bacteria can eat, limiting their ability to grow and divide. Sugars suppress the ability of our white blood cells to eat bacteria. Removing these sugars can help diminish another problem that surfaces commonly in women taking antibiotics: yeast infections. Meaning that in women, antibiotics allows yeast overgrowth to occur.
2. Eat more probiotic foods
Keeping yourself healthy during an antibiotics treatment isn't just about cutting things out, there are certain things you want to be adding to your diet too, predominantly, probiotics. If you are sensitive to dairy, stock up on foods like yogurt or kefir, or even miso soup, all of which are high in probiotics.
You can also take probiotic supplements since the optimal dose of around 5 billion is tough to get from food alone. Opt for strains like saccharomyces boulardii and/or lactobacillus rhamnosus, which are good to take while on antibiotics. It may also be best to ingest it in powder form, as this will work faster and more efficiently.
3. Time your probiotics right
When you take a course of antibiotics, you may be required to take pills from one to four times a day. Usually, you're required to do so with food. therefore, it may be tempting to take your probiotic at the same time, but this will only cancel out all the helpful effects. Here's an example of what you should do:
In the morning, you could take your antibiotic with a boiled egg, then wait an hour and have a cup of probiotic-rich Greek yogurt as a mid-morning snack. Then you could have a kimchi snack in the afternoon before taking your antibiotic with dinner. If you're going to take probiotics in capsule form, consider taking them mid-morning and mid-afternoon, this will help it work before you add another antibiotic to the mix.
4. Watch your stress levels
Being sick is stressful, especially if your illness has kept you from performing at work or from keeping up with other obligations. Though stress can actually make your health worse, particularly when you're taking antibiotics.
Furthermore, 'cortisol,' our stress hormone, compromises the integrity and absorption capability of our digestive system. Meaning that your body will have a harder time absorbing probiotics and helping your gut bacteria repopulate. In order to give your body the best shot at repopulating your gut with good bacteria, cut out habits that can raise cortisol such as smoking, alcohol consumption, over-exercising and consuming foods which you are allergic or sensitive to. Be sure to get lots of rest and relaxation.
5. Consume foods high in vitamin K
Vitamin K is an important nutrient which is involved in blood clotting, wound healing and bone health. Adequate daily intake of vitamin K is 90 micrograms for women and 120 micrograms for men. But when taking antibiotics, it destroys the bacteria producing vitamin K. This means that you should increase its intake while on antibiotic treatment. Opt for foods such as dark green leafy veg, which also contain many antioxidants and phytonutrients.
6. Consume foods high in vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is required for the proper development of red blood cells. Being deficient in B12 may result in anemia. It is partly produced by healthy gut bacteria and should therefore be increased while on antibiotic treatment. Its best sources are fish, particularly salmon, red meat and dairy products.
7. Consume foods rich in folic acid
Gut bacteria also produce folic acid. It therefore makes sense to add some foods rich in this nutrient to your diet after an antibiotic treatment. Folic acid is also important for your brain, muscles and eye health. It is also essential for proper red blood cell development. Folate may also be helpful in the prevention of ovarian and colon cancer as well as heart disease and stroke. Its richest sources are spinach, beets, peanuts and green leafy vegetables.