Feeling sick even after taking a course of antibiotics? It could be thanks to an imbalanced gut

The gut is called the second brain for a reason—it is correlated with hormone function, heart health and cognition, in addition to just digestion. The key to having a healthy microbiome is making sure that good gut bacteria outnumber bad bacteria, but when you take a course of antibiotics when you’re sick, it can upend this balance completely. Always feel sick, bloated, nauseous and even sicker after you recover? Here’s why.

How do antibiotics affect the gut?

Antibiotics are reliable killers of dangerous pathogens, which makes them the best weapon against bad bacteria, but also the most dangerous weapon against good bacteria. Antibiotics can alter our gut flora significantly. A five-day course of some broad-spectrum antibiotics can wipe out as much as one-third of your gut bacteria,” explains nutritionist Suchita Mukerji. Any disturbance in the gut shows up as acidity, discomfort and bloating, and makes the body susceptible to fatigue, brain fog and further infections.

“Bacteria make up 90 per cent of the population of the gut. Everyone has his or her personal collection of bacteria,” explains Mukerji. “An imbalanced ecosystem in the gut is the root cause of food cravings, bloating, weight gain, yeast overgrowth, irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut, celiac/ gluten sensitivity, and even depression and skin conditions like acne, rosacea,” she adds.

How to protect your gut bacteria while taking a course of antibiotics?

Mukerji suggests taking a probiotic alongside your antibiotics, but spacing it out in order for both pills to do their jobs. “If you’re taking an antibiotic in the morning and at night, you should take a probiotic in the afternoon, and then continue to take it for at least one month after finishing the course,” she says. “Probiotics containing Lactobacillus as well as those containing strains of beneficial yeast Saccharomyces Boulardii is a good idea. As a yeast, it has nothing to fear from antibiotics. So, while we are disrupting our entire bacteria population by taking antibiotics, Saccharomyces can move in and set up house without a worry. It can protect the gut from harmful opportunists. It also has the ability to bind toxins,” she adds. Before you add anything to your ongoing course of medication, however, it’s best to consult with your general physician in case of any counter-indications.

During your recovery, include food high in fibre and resistant starch to multiply your microbiome but also help to promote species diversity. “Eliminate sugary, starchy foods. Deleting these foods from your diet is an essential part of rehabbing your microbiome especially when you’re taking an antibiotic,” says Mukherji. Kothari says that she can’t emphasise enough how important natural, plant-based foods can be beneficial to the gut reboot. “Natural fermented drinks like miso soup, congee, fermented lemonade, fruit shots, soups, herbal teas and just water are the game-changers when you are looking to restore and re-energise the gut,” she adds.

Kothari suggests having yoghurt alongside such as coconut kefir, homemade pickles and overnight fermented rice to strengthen the healthy bacteria. For probiotics to work, prebiotics (which serve as fuel for probiotics) are a must-have too. She suggests adding chicory root, artichokes, leeks, whole grains and raw bananas to your diet (here’s a handy list of good prebiotics to try).

The article was first published in Vogue


  • Aparrna Gupta

    Transitioning from crafting stories for The Asian Age and Bombay Times to setting beauty trends in Verve, Aparrna Gupta’s journey has always revolved around resonant storytelling. Her prowess in content creation is unparalleled, with articles featured in renowned publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel India, Lifestyle Asia, Elle, and Femina. She also excels in content ideation, trend identification, mood board creation, and product styling. Her expertise has proven invaluable to homegrown brands, enabling them to authentically connect with their audience.

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