Antibiotics and wellness don’t mix. Rephrase that: Antibiotics and gut bacteria don’t mix/ (At least if you want healthy gut bacteria to keep your immune system strong and healthy). Read on to learn more about the #1 antibiotics side effect and how antibiotics can make you sicker in the long-run.
#1 ANTIBIOTICS SIDE EFFECT
Antibiotics are regarded as miracle drugs by many, however, they actually may be making you sicker in the long run. Here’s what you need to know about antibiotics and how they impact your gut and overall health.
Chances are, if you’re an American, you’ve taken an antibiotic at one time or another. We are overly exposed to antibiotics throughout our lifetimes, due, not only to medical use, but also to antibiotic utilization in farm animals and crops.
Prescribed by most doctors to cure “everything”—from a cold to ear infection, acne, strep throat, food poisoning, allergy attack and everything in between—antibiotics are often viewed as the first line of defense for “feeling better.” In fact, more than 40% of all people believe that antibiotics are the best way to treat illness—especially fevers, sore throats and runny noses (Carter et al, 2016).
No wonder 4 out of 5 people take an antibiotic every year (CDC, 2017)–even though 1 of 3 antibiotic prescriptions are actually deemed “useless” (as in: not necessary for the disease) according to studies! (CDC, 2016)
So what’s the big deal with antibiotics?
Antibiotics may be doing more harm than good.
Three words: Destroy gut bacteria.
ANTIBIOTICS & GUT BACTERIA ROLE IN IMMUNITY
You have approximately 100 trillion gut bacteria organisms in your body—10 times the amount of total cells in your entire body! Moreover, about 7-pounds of you is gut bacteria alone.
Although the words “gut bacteria” may seem like a gross or “bad” thing, many of this bacteria is actually a GOOD thing, necessary for keeping your body working in tip top shape! Gut bacteria has been shown to influence just about every process in our body—including:
- The way we think (Aarts et al, 2017)
- Our anxiety levels and mood
- Our behavior (Li et al, 2017)
- Metabolism (Li Zhang et al, 2016)
- Hormone health (Mudd et al, 2017)
- Thyroid health (Patil, 2014)
- Energy (Krajmalnik-Brown et al, 2012)
- Muscle mass and body fat (Jayasinghe et al, 2016)
- and our immune system (Belkaid & Hand, 2014)
(Translation: “Healthy” gut bacteria equals a STRONG immune system!)
80% of your immune system is housed in your gut microbiome.
The white blood cells (responsible for fighting off infection and protecting against disease) are produced in your intestines, so…
When your gut is STRONG, you are LESS at risk for colds, flus, allergies, acne, asthma and runny noses.
HOWEVER, if your gut bacteria are weak (i.e. unhealthy, fermented, insufficient or overgrown), your immune system weakens too!
Enter: The PROBLEM with antibiotics.
Antibiotics PLUS gut bacteria don’t mix (well).
HOW ANTIBIOTICS WORK
Antibiotics, also known as antibacterials, are medications that destroy or slow down the growth of bacteria, such as a specific flu virus or salmonella in your GI Tract.When you take an antibiotic, it enters your bloodstream and travels through your body, killing bacteria but not human cells.
However, while it may seem like a GOOD thing to destroy the bacteria associated with your current sore throat, antibiotics take NO prisoners.
Antibiotic drugs don’t just kill off the pathogenic (“bad”) bacteria associated with the one illness you’re battling, but they ALSO kill off or disrupt healthy, thriving bacteria—especially in your gut.
(In short: Antibiotics DESTROY all bacteria—both “good” and “bad” bacteria alike).
Microbiome composition can be rapidly altered by exposure to antibiotics, with potential immediate effects on health, for instance through killing off bacteria and cells that otherwise typically prevent pathogens from causing acute diseases—like a lingering cold that won’t go away, or sudden flare of allergies that you never had before.
Other side effects are not as immediate.
For instance, one client of mine grew up taking an antibiotic to cure his “acne” as a teen. Fast forward to age 60, and a chronic history of IBS, hypoglycemia and gallbladder attacks. The trigger? Disrupted gut bacteria.
Couple his 6-year stint on antibiotics with his Wonder Bread and Skippy Peanut Butter (processed food) diet in his youth, daily life stressors and a steady stream of instant coffee every day and his symptoms of chronic bloating, stomach pains and loose stools (upwards of 8 to 12 times per day) persisted.
Repeat: Antibiotics destroy gut bacteria.
Over time, antibiotics can also cause a phenomenon known as: “Antibiotic resistance”—when antibiotics actually NO LONGER work as intended.
If you’ve ever taken a round of antibiotics to “cure” a disease, then repeated the same treatment for your cold the following year and discovered the antibiotic did NOT work like it did the first time, you’re not crazy.
Sort of like the idea behind a flu shot (i.e. you get the shot, and become “super human” to catching the flu), antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria become resistant to every type of treatment after repeat exposure to antibiotics (i.e. they can’t be killed).
Not only is your immune system weekend more, but pathogenic (bad) gut bacteria can begin to take over the “good guys,” setting the stage for a host of potential (longer term) side effects, including:
- SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
- leaky gut
- fungal and/or bacterial infection
- other gut-related symptoms (hormone imbalances, poor immune function, acne, low energy, high cholesterol and inflammation, slowed metabolism, brain fog, anxiety)
THE BOTTOM LINE
Got gut issues?
Well, do you have a history of antibiotic use? If so, your tummy troubles may not be too far removed.
On antibiotics currently for a short term? While antibiotics can have a time and place (such as eradicating an acute infection from a snake bite), when you take antibiotics often or for long periods of time, you upset the balance of your gut health, so it’s IMPERATIVE you focus on supporting your gut health. A few of my faves:
- Soil Based Probiotics
Like Primal Probiotics: 1-2, three times per day
- Prebiotic Supplement
To help good bacteria stick, like Partially Hydrolyzed Guar Gum: 1 time per day
- Interfase Plus
A biofilm disruptor to remove outer biofilm from bacteria): 1 in morning, 1 in mid-day/evening on an empty stomach
- AntiMicrobial Herbs
Kill off pathogenic bacteria like Dysbiocide & FC-Cidal: 1 dose in morning, 1 in evening
- Apple Cider Vinegar:
1 tbsp. in 2-4 oz. of water with meals (I love Bragg’s)
Love your gut from the inside out.