Antibiotics screwed up my gut, now what?
SINCE THE ACCIDENTAL DISCOVERY OF PENICILLIN BY SIR ALEXANDER FLEMING, RESEARCH IN THIS DOMAIN WITNESSED A BOOST, WITH MANY SUCH SIMILAR MOLECULES BEING PURIFIED, SYNTHESIZED AND TESTED FOR VARIOUS BACTERIAL INFECTIONS. SIMULTANEOUSLY, THEIR MODES OF ACTION, DOSAGE, AND SAFETY STUDIES WERE CARRIED OUT AND BEFORE LONG, THERE WAS SUDDEN SPURT IN THE DISCOVERY OF NOVEL ANTIBIOTICS. SINCE THE DISCOVERY OF THEIR EFFICACY IN TACKLING BACTERIAL INFECTIONS, ANTIBIOTICS CONTINUE TO PLAY A PIVOTAL ROLE IN THE TREATMENT OF A WIDE ARRAY OF DISEASES.
Our body is a habitat of trillions of bacteria and microorganisms that colonize the exterior surfaces as well as the inside of our bodies. Of these, organisms in our gut are extremely important. They participate in several physiological processes, right from aiding digestion, synthesizing vital nutrients like vitamin K and certain B vitamins, to hormone regulation, immune responses, and even moods and mental health. As was rightly said by Hippocrates, “All Disease Begins in the Gut,” an imbalance in the gut ecosystem can lead to harmful consequences that include inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, cancer 1 and even autism. Strange, isn’t it?
The gut microbiota consists of 1014 (that’s like 10 trillions!) microbes, working round the clock to maintain the health of the gut and also the overall condition of the body. They control the vast majority of our immune health.
Around 300 to 500 bacterial species cover the 1014 and comprise various bacteria like Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, Verrucomicrobia, and Fusobacteria. Other species, including Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Leuconostoc, are classified as lactic acid bacteria or probiotics 2 All these are commensals, i.e. they perform beneficial functions for the host and in turn utilize the nutrients and thrive in this protective, nutritious environment.
Our gut ecosystem experiences an imbalance due to illness, stress, aging, bad lifestyle, and habits, and most importantly, the use of antibiotics. This dysbiosis is responsible for digestion problems, weak immune responses, irregular sleep patterns, and even bad breath.
In today’s world, good old routines have been replaced with fast and easy options in all aspects of life. Lifestyle, food choices, lack of exercise, unhealthy habits like drinking and smoking, and most importantly, excessive, unnecessary use of antibiotics has led to a perpetually disturbed gut microflora in most of us. The extent to which the flora has changed depends on the type and strength of the antibiotic and the duration for which it was taken.
What is not understood is that this disturbance is the root of almost all health problems. Thus, maintaining the gut flora is of utmost importance.
Here are some foods for healthy gut and quick tips that can be followed for a perennial healthy gut.
Fermented foods are a natural reservoir of miscellaneous probiotic strains. Consumption of these regularly keeps a check on the good bacteria and minimizes the damaging effects caused by antibiotics. Since the olden times, India has had fermented foods as a part of their diet. Curd, buttermilk, idli, dosa made by fermenting batter, along with recent New World additions like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha are constructive in maintaining the gut biota health.
AN ORDERLY DIET
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables that are rich in prebiotics (promote multiplication and activity of good bacteria) and laying low on fiber, sugar, and grains after the antibiotics course will improve gut bacteria recovery.
GELATIN AND SOLUBLE FIBRE
Both of these help in the strengthening of the gut wall and this in turn induces the growth and activity of the gut organisms. Gelatin aids in the healing of the tract by allowing the food to pass through the tract smoothly, without causing it further damage. Soluble or fermentable fiber ingestion is highly recommended as it is known to accelerate the multiplication of the good bacteria along with the healing of the intestine walls.
MANAGE STRESS LEVELS
While this point can be blown away by the wave of our hand, it is probably the prime contributing factor in gut dysbiosis. Stress causes changes in the secretions, permeability, and functions of the gut that affect the production, colonization, and activity of the gut microorganisms. So, it is best to shut off for a minute, take a deep breath, and relax.
Along with the fermented foods, a good grade probiotic, containing the recommended number of probiotic bacteria should be taken along with the antibiotics. Discussion with your physician about the brand and its dosage will ensure maximum benefits in helping maintain a healthy gut microflora population. Probiotic supplements containing a good mixture of several probiotic strains are preferable.
‘Your Gut’ is a high quality, balanced probiotic formulation by Setu that has a mixture of 9 strains, with 15 billion CFUs (Colony Forming Units), a unit to measure the number of bacteria, that supports a healthy gastrointestinal tract, prevents diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and related discomforts. With 9 strains in this formulation, profitable health effects increase through the diverse activity of these microbes.
Say no to an upset tummy. Say no to compromised immune health. Say no to unbalanced gut bacteria. Follow the tips above and give your gut ecosystem the treatment it deserves.
- Quigley EMM. Gut Bacteria in Health and Disease. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2013 Sep; 9(9): 560–569.2. Li H et al. Impacts of Gut Bacteria on Human Health and Diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2015 Apr; 16(4): 7493–7519.