A human stomach

Gut Health After Antibiotics: How to Improve It?

The use of antibiotics has revolutionized modern medicine. Antibiotics enabled surgeries, organ transplants, and therapy for many (until then invincible) bacterial infections. However, there is no doubt that antibiotics harm gut health. In this guide, we are revealing the best ways to improve gut health after antibiotics.

How Do Antibiotics Affect the Gut Microbiome?

The gut microbiome is an ecosystem of microorganisms in the digestive tract. Antibiotics are designed to combat bacterial infections by targeting and killing harmful bacteria. However, they usually affect beneficial bacteria, disrupting the balance within the gut microbiome. This disruption can lead to dysbiosis, an imbalance that can manifest as gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, or cramping.

Beneficial bacteria in the gut are essential for proper digestion, as they help break down food and absorb nutrients. When antibiotics disrupt this balance, it decreases nutrient absorption, which can affect overall health.

Besides, the overuse or misuse of antibiotics can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, further complicating the treatment of bacterial infections.

Antibiotics and Overall Health

When used correctly, antibiotics improve overall health and well-being by treating bacterial infections that, if left untreated, could lead to serious health complications. However, antibiotics (especially broad-spectrum antibiotics) can have several side effects due to their impact on both harmful and beneficial bacteria. One common side effect is diarrhea, which occurs when antibiotics change the bacterial microflora. This leads to an overgrowth of dangerous bacteria or an imbalance in the gut microbiome.

Other common side effects include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. These symptoms are usually mild and go away once antibiotic therapy is completed. However, in some cases, antibiotics can cause more severe side effects, such as allergic reactions or antibiotic-associated colitis, a condition characterized by severe diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and sometimes fever. 

How to Improve Gut Health During Antibiotic Therapy?

To mitigate the detrimental effects of antibiotics, it’s important to use antibiotics properly and eat healthy foods. Let’s see what else we can improve during antibiotic therapy:

Probiotics Are Mandatory

Probiotics are live microorganisms that confer health benefits on the host when consumed in adequate amounts. They can help restore the gut’s beneficial bacteria. This reduces the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms. It’s important to note that the effectiveness of probiotics during antibiotic treatment depends on the type and strain of probiotic used, as well as the overall health status. 

Eat Prebiotic Foods

Prebiotic foods contain non-digestible fibers that serve as food for beneficial bacteria, which helps them thrive and maintain a healthy balance in the gut microbiome. Onions, mushrooms, garlic, flaxseeds, cocoa, bananas, and apples are some of the prebiotic foods. 

Eat Fermented Foods

Probiotic bacteria found in fermented foods assist in restoring the balance of the gut microbiome during antibiotic treatment. Fermentation is a process in which microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, or fungi break down sugars and other carbohydrates in food. In this process, they produce compounds like lactic acid, ethanol, and carbon dioxide, which act as natural preservatives.

Fermented foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, cocoa, sour cream, sour milk, and kombucha. Consuming fermented foods during antibiotic treatment supports digestion and overall gut health. However, it’s important to choose fermented foods that are unpasteurized and contain live cultures to ensure their probiotic effects.

Avoid Processed Foods

Processed foods contain high levels of added sugars, unhealthy fats, and preservatives, which harm the gut microbiome. These foods can also be low in fiber, which is important for promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. In order to maintain healthy gut bacteria, avoid processed foods and choose healthy, unprocessed foods instead. This can reduce the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues. 

Increase Fiber Intake

Fibers are a type of carbohydrate that the body does not entirely digest. Instead, they reach the colon intact, where they serve as a food source for beneficial bacteria. By consuming more fiber-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, you can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Apart from this, fiber promotes regular bowel movements, which lowers the risk of gastrointestinal problems.

Exercise During Antibiotic Therapy

Regular physical activity promotes the diversity and abundance of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Exercise can also improve gut motility and function and reduce the risk of digestive issues. It may also lower inflammation in the gut, supporting a healthy gut microbiome. 

Collagen and Vitamin C Could Also Help

Collagen is a protein that preserves the structure and integrity of the gut lining. By supplementing with collagen, you can support your gut lining, which is often disrupted during antibiotic treatment. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can reduce inflammation in your gut and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. As vitamin C is essential for collagen synthesis, it can boost your collagen production and support your gut balance.


Frequently Asked Questions


How long does it take for the intestines to heal after antibiotics?

The time it takes for the intestines to heal after antibiotics depends on several factors, including overall health and the specific antibiotics used. In general, it can take several weeks to several months for the gut microbiome to fully recover after antibiotic use. During this time, it’s essential to support gut health and the immune system with a healthy diet and quality food supplements.


What are the symptoms of bad gut health after antibiotics?

Poor gut health after antibiotics emphasizes gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, or constipation. These symptoms may occur due to an imbalance in the gut microbiome, with an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and a decrease in beneficial bacteria. In some cases, individuals may also experience fatigue, mood changes, or skin problems, as gut health has an impact on overall well-being. 


Which antibiotics are the worst for gut health?

As broad-spectrum antibiotics disrupt bacterial balance in the gut more than narrow-spectrum antibiotics, they are generally considered the worst for gut health. They include fluoroquinolones, clindamycin, and cephalosporins. These antibiotics are associated with a higher risk of diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues.


What vitamins should not be taken with antibiotics?

It is recommended to take certain vitamins and minerals at least two hours before or after taking antibiotics to avoid interactions, since they can bind to antibiotics and reduce their absorption. During antibiotic treatment, you should avoid multivitamin supplements that contain calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. It’s important to follow the guidance to ensure their efficacy and avoid side effects. 


Can antibiotics cause permanent gut damage?

Antibiotics cause temporary disruptions to the gut microbiome, but in most cases, the gut recovers once the antibiotic therapy is completed. However, sometimes, with prolonged or repeated antibiotic use, there is a risk of long-term damage to the gut microbiome. This can lead to chronic gut issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or an increased risk of developing antibiotic-resistant infections.


What foods to eat after antibiotics?

After taking antibiotics, it’s beneficial to consume foods rich in probiotics to restore the gut microbiome. Prebiotic foods such as onions, garlic, and bananas can all help support beneficial bacteria. Fiber from fruits, vegetables, and legumes is always an excellent choice for a healthy gut. Besides, drinking plenty of water and avoiding processed foods can further help you recover your gut. 


Do antibiotics cancel out vitamins?

Antibiotics can interfere with the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals, particularly fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E, and K. They can also affect the absorption of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.