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The best probiotics after antibiotics

Learn how to reverse the effects of antibiotics and use probiotics to counter the long term side effects of antibiotics.

December 05, 2021
6 min read

Antibiotics are a double-edged sword. While they can help us to recover from some illnesses, they’re also heavily over-prescribed (some estimates warn that 50% of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary). 

Antibiotics also don’t only kill the bad bacteria in your body, but even wipe out the important, beneficial bacteria in your gut. If you want to learn how to reverse the effects of antibiotics and improve your gut microbiome, keep reading. We’ll also break down the best probiotics after antibiotics.

Article breakdown

Antibiotics and your gut: harmful side effects on your healthy intestinal flora

There are six primary forms of antibiotics used in the UK:

  • Penicillins for general infections like skin infections or urinary tract infections 

  • Macrolides for those who have a penicillin allergy or who have an infection from a penicillin-resistant bacteria strain 

  • Cephalosporins for more severe infections, such as meningitis 

  • Aminoglycosides, which are typically used in hospitals due to their severe side effects 

  • Tetracyclines for many skin conditions 

  • Fluoroquinolones, which are slowly being phased out of general usage

While each drug is different, they have one thing in common: while they can effectively target the bacteria that makes you sick, they also have widespread collateral damage on all bacteria in your body.

This is especially alarming in light of the increasing usage of antibiotics in the UK, and also due to the important connection between good bacteria and your general health and wellness. 

The unseen side effects of antibiotics on your gut

There are an estimated 7,000 bacteria strains that live in your gut. Researchers have found that after only a few days of antibiotic treatment, there is “an almost complete eradication of gut bacteria.”

While your gut bacteria can start to recover on their own, those same researchers found that:

  • The balance between different strains of bacteria in your gut never fully recovers

  • Some beneficial bacteria never return

  • New, harmful bacteria take advantage of the gut imbalance and take up residence in your gut 

This can lead to antibiotic side effects like:

  • Diarrhoea

  • Nausea 

  • Cramping

  • Bloating

Some antibiotics are worse than others when it comes to the impact on your beneficial bacteria. However, a review of 1,000 commonly prescribed drugs found that the general results were the same across the board: your gut is collateral damage whenever you’re prescribed antibiotics.  

What is intestinal flora: why your gut bacteria matters after antibiotics

There is a complex connection between your gut and your brain, which doctors refer to as the gut-brain axis:

Taking antibiotics may wipe out an infection you’re struggling with. But unless you take immediate care of your gut after finishing your round of medication, your brain health and mental health may struggle for months afterwards while your gut tries to get back to a place of balance.

Thankfully, there are several ways to improve gut microbiota and speed up your gut’s recovery after antibiotics. 

How to reverse effects of antibiotics and increase gut flora

If you want to learn how to reverse the effects of antibiotics or how to increase your gut health after antibiotics, talk to your doctor first. Diet, supplements, and lifestyle can all affect your gut, and you want to ensure any health strategies you choose won’t negatively impact the infection you’re trying to treat. 

Likewise, make sure you finish your round of antibiotics as instructed by your medical care professional. If you stop taking your antibiotics before your full dose is completed, it can cause a resurgence in your infection and may prolong your treatment time (and thus worsen your gut health). If you want to know more on how to strengthen your gut, keep reading.

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1. Eat prebiotic food

Prebiotic foods are those that contain specific forms of fibre that feed the microorganisms in your gut. Your gut’s beneficial bacteria thrive on:

  • Inulin fibre

  • Fructo-oligosaccharides fibre 

  • Galacto-oligosaccharides fibre

2. Improve gut microbiome

By ensuring your diet is high in prebiotics, you set a strong foundation for improving gut microbiome and giving your bacteria everything they need to repopulate your intestines quickly. 

Specific foods to incorporate include:

  • Vegetables like asparagus, beets, Jerusalem artichokes, and cabbage 

  • Legumes, such as kidney beans and chickpeas 

  • Fruit like dates, figs, and stone fruit 

  • Whole grains

3. Take the best probiotics after antibiotics

Probiotics are supplements that contain live, beneficial bacteria. Taking these supplements while you’re taking your antibiotics can help to counter the impact that the drugs have on your gut bacteria.

For the best results, look for a supplement that contains either strains of Saccharomyces or strains of Lactobacilli. These are the most widely used bacteria strains in antibiotics-related research. 

Keep in mind that antibiotics do kill the bacteria in your probiotics. Each day, take your probiotics as far apart from your antibiotics as possible. For example, if you need to take your antibiotics every morning and evening, consider taking your probiotics at lunchtime.

4. Add fermented foods to your diet

If you want to learn how to restore healthy gut flora, it all starts with fermentation. Fermented foods are naturally high in beneficial bacteria, and eating them helps to repopulate your gut after antibiotics. 

As noted above, antibiotic usage can also cause an increase in harmful bacteria in your digestive tract. If you want to learn how to get rid of bad bacteria in your gut, studies have shown that fermented foods like yoghurt actually help to eliminate harmful bacteria while increasing beneficial bacteria.

Other fermented foods to try include:

  • Kimchi 

  • Cheese 

  • Yoghurt 

  • Kombucha 

  • Tempeh 

  • Miso 

  • Sauerkraut

5. Support your brain health while your gut-brain axis is recuperating

Researchers are unclear exactly how long it takes for your gut to fully recover after antibiotics, even if you’re taking the best probiotics after antibiotics. Many factors, from the type of infection you were battling to the type of antibiotic you were taking, all influence this factor.

Yet the effects on your memory, learning, emotions, and general brain health are real.

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