After taking antibiotics (or while taking them), it’s important to take probiotics, prebiotics, and consume the proper foods to prevent gastrointestinal upset and help restore gut flora. Of course, while taking antibiotics, to protect the health of your gut, it is also important to avoid certain foods.
While it’s best to avoid antibiotics whenever possible, there are times when it just can’t be avoided. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of needing antibiotics, there are steps you can take during and after to support your gut and minimize the impact.
Antibiotics don’t discriminate between harmful and beneficial bacteria. Consequently, this will change the flora in your gut and can cause antibiotic-associated diarrhea (the most common side effect of taking antibiotics), vomiting, skin rashes, vaginal itching, not to mention that about 70 to 80 percent of your immunity is in your gut. In other words, the consequences can be devastating for your body and your overall health.
Studies that investigated the effects of antibiotics on gut health have shown that taking antibiotics can cause Clostridium difficile infections that can cause inflammation of the colon. Studies have also found that interfering with the gut microflora can also affect the immune system and put you at risk of further infection.
To avoid the side effects of antibiotics, it is important to know when to take probiotics and prebiotics. Also, you need to know which foods to eat and which foods you should avoid.
Here are three things you must do while or after taking antibiotics to stay healthy:
1. Take probiotics
The first thing to do while on antibiotics is to take a probiotic supplement or consume foods containing probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that are beneficial for gut health. You can get probiotics as a supplement and some popular probiotic strains Lactobacillus, Saccharomyces, and Bifidobacterium. Probiotics also can be found in certain foods such as natural yogurt, fermented foods, kefir, kombucha, miso, and tempeh.
The best time to take probiotic supplement while taking an antibiotic is 2 hours before or after taking the antibiotic pill. Also, you should continue to take probiotics after the course of antibiotics has finished. It is recommended to take probiotics at least one more week in order to replenish the flora in your gut.
According to studies, you should take probiotics during and after taking antibiotics. For instance, a systematic review of 20 trials discovered that probiotics can help to prevent Clostridium difficile infections that cause diarrhea. Another review of clinical trials performed on more than 3,400 children found that taking various probiotic strains can help to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
Another thing you can do after taking antibiotics is to eat probiotic-rich foods to lessen the impact of medication on your gut. Add these foods to your diet during and after your antibiotic course gas finished to maintain good gut health:
Yogurt: You can eat natural yogurt while or after taking antibiotics because it contains strains of beneficial bacteria. According to one study, people who consume yogurt have more Bifidobacterium (a type of good gut bacteria) in their gut. Other studies also have shown that natural yogurt contains Lactobacillus casei, which can positively affect gastrointestinal health. Moreover, yogurt is one of the best foods for treating yeast infection. However, if you’re taking certain antibiotics such as tetracycline antibiotics, make sure to avoid milk products as these antibiotics bind with calcium from milk products.
Kefir: Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is loaded with good bacteria. According to studies, kefir has antimicrobial and anti-carcinogenic activity. Consuming kefir also boosts the immune system and improves the digestion of lactose.
Kimchi: Kimchi is another probiotic food you can take while or after taking antibiotics. Kimchi is made by fermenting vegetables (most commonly cabbage) with probiotic lactic acid bacteria. According to studies, kimchi contains probiotic properties that have a positive effect on your gut health and immune system.
2. Take prebiotics
The second thing to do while or after taking antibiotics is to take prebiotics to help restore the microflora in your gut. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that acts as a “food source” for probiotics. You can buy prebiotics as a supplement or you can find them in many foods. The best time to take the prebiotic supplement is together with the probiotic supplement.
According to the British Journal of Nutrition, prebiotics help strengthen the gut against pathogens. They have a positive impact on the health of the large intestine in humans. For instance, the prebiotic supplement Galacto-oligosaccharides has been shown to help prevent the adverse impact of taking antibiotics (amoxicillin) on your gut. The prebiotic helped improve the activity of bifidobacteria and improve gut health.
Other studies have shown that prebiotics like Fructo-oligosaccharides can help prevent various gastrointestinal infections. These can also help beneficial gut bacteria strains such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium to flourish in the gut.
There are numerous foods that naturally have prebiotics that can help to promote proper gut health. Here are just a few prebiotic foods you can eat during and after taking antibiotics:
Banana: Consuming bananas while and after taking antibiotics is good because they are easy to digest and contain prebiotics. According to the journal Anaerobe, bananas contain fiber with prebiotic properties. Specifically, bananas contain Fructo-oligosaccharides, a type of fructose molecules that lead to better gastrointestinal health. Consuming a banana or two a day can help to increase beneficial bacteria levels in your gut.
Cocoa: Cocoa is loaded with antioxidants and it is a prebiotic food. According to one study, consuming cocoa improved the microflora of the human gut because of its prebiotic properties.
Jerusalem artichoke: Jerusalem artichoke is loaded with prebiotics that help to increase the number of healthy bacteria in your intestines. According to one study, dried Jerusalem artichoke helps to increase Bifidobacterium strains in the colon.
Eat high-fiber foods: It is important to consume foods that are rich in fiber while taking antibiotics. According to one systematic review of 64 studies on the effects of fiber on gut microbiota, fiber is necessary for a healthy gut. Fiber helps to balance the microflora in the gut and increase the number of beneficial bacteria. Dietary fiber helps probiotic strains like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium to flourish. Other studies also have found that a diet rich in fiber and low in red meat helps to increase the number of beneficial gut bacteria such as Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli, Eubacteria, and Prevotella.
3. Avoid eating processed sugar
The third thing you should do while and after taking antibiotics is to avoid eating processed sugar that supports the growth of bad bacteria. At the same time, you should eat foods that are easy on your digestive system and contain probiotics to prevent the side effects of antibiotics. In this way, you will repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria and restore the function of your immunity.
Consuming sugary foods and drinks could lead to yeast infections and other unwanted side effects of antibiotics. According to experts, antibiotics can put women at risk of vaginal yeast infection since sugar feeds yeast and can make the infection worse.
Also, remember that some calcium-fortified juices and dairy products can interfere with the effectiveness of taking antibiotics. For instance, one study found that orange juice with added calcium interfered with the absorption of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin and resulted in the antibiotic being less effective.
Another food that you should avoid while on antibiotics is grapefruit. Although this fruit is healthy, grapefruit and antibiotics are not a good combination because this fruit can interfere with the absorption of the antibiotic. One small study found that consuming grapefruit juice with the antibiotic clarithromycin reduced its effectiveness.