As many of you know, I’ve been recovering from pre-pneumonia. Which means I’ll be nursing a cough and feeling a little low on energy for a while. It also means that I had to take antibiotics in order to fight off the infection. And I’ve recently become obsessed with Miso and Yogurt Kefir Parfaits (they’re all over my insta). Those two things might seem unrelated, but trust me when I say that it’s 100% deliberate. Antibiotics may be a rare necessity but they also change the way we should be nourishing our bodies…
Why Antibiotics Affect Your Gut Microbiome
Antibiotics destroy bacteria. But they don’t discriminate. While they work hard to heal us, they may also have a negative affect on the health of our microbiome (the bacterial communities that live in and on our bodies), temporarily affecting it’s integrity.
This is especially true for the bacteria that live in our guts. That may not sound like a big deal, until you consider this: the bacteria making up your incredible microbiome outnumbers your human cells 10 to 1. Even more fascinating – we love to think of our genes as the dictators of who we are… but bacteria may play a larger role. You have approximately 20 000 human genes in that awesome body of yours, but you also have 2-20 million microbial genes!
Bacteria help us to digest our food, play a role in our immune function, help to stave off disease and may even affect our behaviour (source). While antibiotics are sometimes necessary to protect our health, it’s also important that we work to protect our microbiome too.
How You Can Support Your Gut Health
Probiotics are a great way to introduce more bacteria into your gut. Now, you may be thinking “If I’m on antibiotics, aren’t probiotics kind of pointless? Won’t the antibiotics simply destroy them before they can do anything?” And I hear ya! But the good news is that these probiotics don’t actually need to colonize your gut in order to help you out during a course of antibiotics.
Taking probiotics concurrently with antibiotics can actually help to reduce undesirable side effects, like diarrhea (source 1, 2, 3, 4). One study even showed that using probiotic supplements during and after antibiotic treatment actually helped to reduce the long term effects of antibiotics on the health of gut bacteria (source).
I like to think of fermented foods as another food group; something I should try and consume daily. And that is doubly so when you’re taking antibiotics (thus my increased love of yogurt kefir parfaits).
What’s so cool about fermented foods? The fermentation process encourages gut healthy bacteria to flourish. By eating delicious fermented foods, we’re providing our digestive system with more of that bacteria, supporting our microbiome. It’s an easy (and delicious) way to get probiotics directly from your diet. And the best part – it introduces us to a more diverse group of gut healthy bacteria than probiotic supplements. A diverse microbiome is a happy microbiome.
Not sure what to look out for? Here are some of my favourite fermented goodies:
Who doesn’t love yogurt? It can be a fantastic way to add more probiotics to your diet. But, unfortunately, many yogurt options are full of sugar and artificial flavour, which makes them more like a dessert than a healthy treat.
I prefer to avoid dairy and encourage others to do that same (both for your health and animal welfare). Thankfully there are some amazing, dairy free alternatives. Look for a product that is free of sugars, flavours and additives. You can easily sweeten it naturally with honey or maple syrup. I adore to double the goodness by adding 2 tablespoons of kefir to my yogurt bowls. Win win! Here’s my go to recipe.
Think of kefir as a drinkable, watered down yogurt. Look for a simple, organic brand that isn’t loaded with sugars. I adore the Cultured Coconut’s coconut milk kefir. Their kefir is 170% more potent than leading yogurt brands and 3 times more effective than a probiotic supplement (source). I take a shot every morning (Find out more here). You can also add it to things like ice cream, cereal, smoothies, juices, salad dressings and yogurt parfaits.
An Asian delight, kimchi is made up of fermented cabbage and other veggies. There are different types available, providing a delicious range of flavour. It typically has a bit of a spicy kick to it. Kimchi can be enjoyed solo or added to many dishes, including stir fries, soups, spring rolls, wraps and rice. Wildbrine Kimchi is a personal favourite.
Miso is a delicious, fermented soybean paste, although you can find some that are soy free. Tradition Miso makes an amazing Chickpea Miso that’s to die for, among their other mouthwatering options! Add miso to soups, sauces, dips, gravy and more for awesome flavour as well as tons of gut health support. Look for miso that’s unpasteurized and aged (preferably 3 to 4 years) for the best possible quality.
Fermented tea!?! Say what! Kombucha is the closest thing to pop that you will find in the healthy foodie world. It’s naturally carbonated and can be found in some delightful flavours (I’m a sucker for Rise Kombucha’s Blueberry and Maple). Avoid artificial flavourings, colours, and additives and your gut will thank you!
An Indonesian creation, tempeh is kind of like a fermented soy cake. It has a slightly nutty flavour and makes for a great meat replacement in many recipes. Noble Bean is my go to for Tempeh. Marinate it, add it to stir fries, wraps, sandwiches, salads, chili, etc. Vegans and non-vegans alike will truly adore tempehs adaptability!
Prebiotics feed your gut microbiome, promoting the health and growth of gut friendly bacteria. They’re made out of soluble plant fibers and found in many delicious foods! Much like probiotic rich, fermented foods, prebiotic should be a part of your regular, healthy diet. But their presence becomes even more important when you’re taking antibiotics. Feeding and protecting your gut bacteria does more to encourage growth than simply eating fermented foods and taking probiotics. Prebiotics and probiotics were made for each other.
Here are some delicious sources of prebiotics:
- Dandelion Greens
- Sweet Potatoes
Prebiotics aren’t hard to find and can easily be incorporated into many recipes. Take a peak at my recipe page for tons of inspiration. Looking for more? I share extra recipes on Instagram and in my weekly newsletter – follow the link or sign up below.
I hope that this information inspires you to take extra special care of your incredible microbiome, especially when you’re on antibiotics.
Your turn! How do you plan to keep your gut happy and healthy? Will you be feeding your gut microbiome with extra love and care next time you take antibiotics? Is there anything you’d add to the list? Let me know in the comments.
Health and love,
Thought of the day: My body is more fascinating that I imagined possible. I am grateful that it works so hard to keep me healthy and alive.
Your Health-Esteem Journey Starts Here with a Free Self-Care Planner!
Plus, I’ll send you weekly inspiration and support to help you create your ultimate healthy lifestyle.