Antibiotics: Friend or Foe to Your Gut Health

In 2019, World Health Organization listed antimicrobial resistance as one of the top ten threats to global health due to rampant overuse and misuse of antibiotics. Efforts are being made to reduce inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics to curb unintended health problems in the long run. Let’s know why it is good to avoid unnecessary antibiotic doses and what can be done to restore your digestive health after an unavoidable antibiotic course.

Functioning of a Healthy Gut

In a healthy gut microbiome, the resident microorganisms fight against any infection by pathogens through a process called colonisation resistance. This involves different methods to inhibit pathogens, such as

  • Producing anti-microbial compounds
  • Outcompeting pathogens for space in the gut
  • Maintaining the mucus layer so that pathogens cannot reach intestinal cells
  • Training the immune system to respond to pathogens

What happens when we take antibiotics?

When there is a bacterial infection doctor prescribes antibiotics to bring down infection and they have saved millions of lives by preventing death from bacterial infection. Many times the exact type of bacteria is unknown so to treat an infection wide range of bacteria called a broad-spectrum antibiotic is commonly prescribed.

They not only kill the disease-causing bacteria or prevent them from growing and multiplying but also end up killing most of the beneficial bacteria

Following are the unintended effects of antibiotics on Gut Health

  • Antibiotics reduce microbial diversity in the gut and kill beneficial bacteria
  • They reduce protective species such as Bifidobacterium spp.
  • Promoting the colonisation of opportunistic pathogens such as Clostridium difficile that can cause antibiotic-associated diarrhoea.
  • Reduce the body’s natural immunity and promote bad bacteria to colonize
  • Other side effects include diarrhoea, yeast infections, gas, vomiting, nausea and constipation

How to restore gut microbiota after an antibiotic dose?

After an antibiotic course, recovery of the gut microbiome takes time. In general, after short-term antibiotic use (between five and ten days), studies have observed it can take at least one to two months for most bacterial groups to recover to pre-antibiotic levels. However, these studies have also shown that even after two to four years, some bacterial groups do not recover completely and antibacterial resistance genes can also persist at increased levels for at least one to two years following antibiotic use, which means the body’s natural ability to fight infection comes down. Therefore, even a short course of antibiotics can have long-term effects on the gut microbiome. 

Following are the ways to restore the gut flora 

  • Add diverse prebiotic-rich plant-based food like vegetables and fruits, prebiotic is food to the gut bacteria
  • Fermented foods like curds, Idly, Dosa, Dhokla, Khanjee, home-made pickles etc
  • Avoid processed foods
  • Cut down on red meat
  • You can also consider adding a dietary Gut Health supplement such as ActiFiber Natural Gut Strength with Synbiotic Advantage, the right balance of both prebiotic and probiotic in it helps restore the healthy balance, probiotic increase ‘Good bacteria’ and prebiotic nourishes them and reduces bad bacteria. Thus, it restores the natural, healthy Gut Balance.
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