If you have ever gotten a bacterial infection – whether it be strep throat, an infected piercing or even being given a long-term oral antibiotic for certain skin conditions such as acne – you have more likely than not been prescribed an antibiotic.
While there are many brand names (and generic versions), the truth of the matter is that they all work in a similar way. Antibiotics are a powerful antimicrobial that both kill and inhibit the growth of new bacteria.
It’s important to note that when I say “bacteria”, I mean all kinds of bacteria – both good and bad. And, yes, there is such a thing as “good bacteria”.
According to Healthline, the human body is actually home to an estimated 100 trillion of this so-called good bacteria and they play a crucial role especially in the gut, helping us break down and digest food, absorb nutrients and even working as a little army to crowd out any bad bacteria invasions.
As mentioned previously, however, when you take oral antibiotics you are essentially killing a lot of this good bacteria as well. Without this good bacteria, pH levels are thrown off and make room for yeast growth. This is especially a problem for women, who frequently suffer from yeast infections after antibiotic use. However, both women and men can suffer from oral yeast growth (in the formation of white patches on the tongue) or watery stools (a nice way of saying diarrhea).
So, the question is: How can we prevent all the bad side effects while taking advantage of the good?
Luckily for you, I have had my fair share of experiences with antibiotics. As a matter of fact, I have had to deal with all of the aforementioned infections – strep throat, piercing infections (You were right, mom!) and acne – and all were quickly cleared up thanks to antibiotic use.
I only had to deal with negative side effects once when I got strep for the first time – which i consider to be truly a learning experience. Thanks to some research I was able to find out how to take full advantage of antibiotics thanks to certain supplements and steps. These are:
In all honesty, I take probiotics daily either/both in the form of supplements or through food – such as kombucha, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut or yogurt – because they are great for keeping digestion healthy and regular thanks to their high dose of this good bacteria.
This is crucial when taking antibiotics. In a study conducted on 135 hospital patients taking antibiotics, only 12% of the group that received probiotics had antibiotic-associated diarrhea compared to 34% of the placebo group who did.
2. Eat Prebiotic Foods
Prebiotics, on the other hand, are a little more complex to grasp. While probiotics provide a direct dose of bacteria to your gut, prebiotics are food (typically carbohydrates) that provide the right environment in your gut for this bacteria to thrive. Examples include dandelion greens, garlic, onions, asparagus and bananas. All of these can be easily dispersed throughout your diet.
For example, you can top your oatmeal with a sliced banana or toss a salad with some dandelion greens. These are great inclusions in any diet – antibiotic use or not. I actually find that prebiotic supplements are unnecessary because these options are so readily available and inexpensive.
3. Make Sure Your Diet Is Right
Finally, if you are sick or have a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics it’s safe to say that your smartest move would be to make a conscious effort to eat well by choosing only nourishing options. And, no, “well” doesn’t mean eating iceberg lettuce all day. I’m talking about eating nourishing foods that will help keep your energy levels up, satiate you and create a healthy gut environment. This means not skipping meals but instead opting to snack on fruits and vegetables, getting in your protein (both meat and alternative) and not being afraid of complex carbohydrate sources such as brown rice or oatmeal. Forgo fried and processed foods, packaged snacks and added sugars.
If you make sure to keep these tips in mind when you are taking antibiotics, your experience will be a whole lot more pleasant – I promise.