I am an advocate of a healthy diet and how the right food is at the core of good health and the wrong food is the source of most diseases we fight. But sometimes…you get bit by something. And in this most recent case of my dad, quite literally, that knocks you off your healthy balance. Using food as medicine can work wonders in a preventive sense, but when you’re down for the count, sometime you just need some antibiotics to knock the bad guys out — fast!
The tricky thing with antibiotics is that they are not super smart, they’re just really vicious. They will kill everything and can be pretty damaging in their own right. There are entire college courses on the topic, but in this post I’ll do my best to give you only the course syllabus on how to restore gut health and recover from a dose of antibiotics ASAP and get your healthy balance back.
Isn’t bacteria bad for you?
One would think that with the increase in antibacterial hand gel sales, which started in the late 90s and has since topped 300 million in sales annually, we wanted to kill all bacteria because they are a source of disease. But did you know that you have 10x more bacterial cells in your body than human cells? And they aren’t all enemies and in fact, they are actually 1000 trillion of your best friends.
Those little guys are in there working on your behalf to make sure everything goes in the right order. A healthy gut supports digestion, fights disease, synthesizes vitamins, create neurotransmitters, and beyond. Scott Mendelson, M.D. says that the biochemistry going on in your gut is nearly as complex as what happens in your brain and that a healthy gut most certainly supports a happy lifestyle with an improved mood. There is a correlation between what is going on in your gut and in your brain as studies show that those with mood disorders, more often than not, also suffer from an unhealthy gut. So the term “trust your gut” is actually science based – ha!
It’s all a matter of having the right balance – “A fun party”
I like the analogy of a huge party and your gut is the host. You want more of the good guests and less of the bad ones. When the good guests are there, the music is happy, the food and drinks are healthy and everybody is laughing, dancing and having a good time. Picture that as your a well-balanced, heathy gut. When you start playing aggressive music, serving up toxic drugs and alcohol you’ll invite a different crowd to the party who tend to cause damage to your house and disrupt the fun. And these two crowds don’t always get along and now you’ve got some friction on your hands. Picture that as your imbalanced and unhealthy gut.
This imbalance of good and bad bacteria can produce toxins and lead to inflammation and disorders such as leaky gut syndrome, compromised immunity, hormonal imbalances, skin conditions, disrupted sleeping patterns and even some mood disorders. When the bad guests get out of hand, and let’s say a riot breaks out, then it’s time to call the police so you don’t burn the house down. Enter what we know as antibiotics.
A little bit about antibiotics – “the police”
Love them or hate them, some times you need them. When a party is out of hand, even if it’s a party you started or it was simply crashed by uninvited guests, you need help shutting it down. And the police have about as much patience as your antibiotics have. They will not take the time to discriminate. They are just there to kick everybody out and shut the party down. Antibiotics are incredibly efficient at killing the disease fighting bugs, but will also eliminate your best friends who support good health along with them.
How to repair your gut and restore healthy gut flora after antibiotics
It’s important to treat your gut with care after a bout of antibiotics. Like the clean up crew after a disruptive, raging party. It’s time to fix the damage that was done and also re-create the healthy environment and good vibe that supported the fun party. We need to play the right music, serve the right treats and invite the right guest and get everybody happily collaborating together again.
Here’s your “how to” list for repairing your house and preparing for your next party:
Bone Broth: Is helpful in the repairing phase and is getting serious credit as a dense source of key nutrients, including glutamine and gelatin. Research has shown that there is a link between glutamine and a healthy repair of the gut lining. And gelatin can enhance gastric acid secretion and restore a healthy mucosal lining in the stomach and reduce inflammation.
Prebiotics: You want to encourage the good guys to get cozy, invite their friends and stay a while. Encourage them with prebiotics–raw, preferably organic, vegetables and fruits. Insoluble fiber foods like starchy tubers, squash, artichokes and some fruits are like the “pizza and beer” party for college kids, they will stay and invite friends as long as the supplies last!
Fermented Foods: These guys can help to re-introduce beneficial bacteria into your digestive system along with nutrition and enzymes to support their growth. These are essentially your VIP guests or “cool kids” that everybody wants to have at their party. Try adding ingredients like homemade sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, coconut kefir and cod liver oil.
Lacto-Fermented Dairy: That is fancy for yogurt and kefir. But there is a lot of chatter that store bought versions will probably only have a handful of bacterial strains, so homemade is best. Careful here too, as added processed sugars are a no-no when restoring healthy gut balance.
Probiotics: You can actually buy probiotic supplements to introduce more good guys. Bonus: In one study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, showed that the addition of probiotics for one month improved mood and reduced levels of stress hormones.
Avoid Refined Sugar: Avoid all refined carbohydrates and processed foods. Processed sugar feeds Candida and the “bad” guests you’re trying to un-invite to the party. Eliminate all added sugar, whether it be natural or artificial. And this includes fruit juice and even varieties of fruit with higher sugar content as you restore a healthy balance. This is the perfect time to eat “perfect!”
Your goal it to always maintain a healthy gut party. This means serving up as many fresh, raw veggies, probiotics, prebiotics, and fermented foods to support the good guests and limiting refined sugar to starve the bad ones. This is critical for all aspects of a healthy body. The idea is to have a healthy diet protect you from needing antibiotic pills in the first place. Avoid calling the police as long as you can, but don’t kill yourself in the process. Sometimes a little reinforcement is necessary to shut bad things down fast. Just get back on track with a healthy diet as soon as possible to get the party in your gut playing the right tune again.
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