Do antibiotics affect gut flora?
Thank you to one of my readers for asking:
What are you thoughts on antibiotics? Specifically, do antibiotics really affect gut flora?
As a Western-trained physician, I admit that antibiotics have saved lives. I don’t, however, believe that antibiotics are the only reason we get better from an infection; antibiotics simply aid the immune system to bring the infection down.
There are some drawbacks to antibiotics: allergic reactions, diarrhea (cleaning out your gut flora, the bacteria that normally lives in your large intestine), and they can also promote an infection called C diff, a bug that jumps at opportunity. When you take antibiotics, you literally wipe out every bug (good or bad) in your intestine. C diff is resistant to most antibiotics. With all other bacteria gone, C diff has free run of your guts, causing secretions, pain, diarrhea and fever. C diff can be diagnosed with a stool test.
While bacteria are present when you have an infection, I do not believe they are the root of infection. Rather, your own overwhelmed and weakened immunity is the root cause of most infection. A weak immune system originates from lifestyle choices; a poor lifestyle will promote an overwhelmed and stressed out immune system that allows bacteria to grow in numbers or places where they don’t belong.
Most of the infections that you get are from bacteria that are already within you: lung infection bacteria come from bugs in your mouth; yeast, already found in your body, is kept in check by your immune system; a urinary tract infection isn’t “caught” from a toilet seat at the mall, you already had it in you gut. The immune system was weak and allowed the infection to happen.
Boost your immune system by:
Manage stress adequately. Stress is a part of life. Problems occur when you allow stress to come into your brain and affect your body’s reaction to it (e.g. elevated heart rate and blood pressure). Stress is also about perception- do you fear not being in control, not up to the job, helpless and out of control? Control what you can and forget the rest. Learn to how control your stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) with yoga, meditation and breathing exercises.
Exercise regularly. You should exercise a minimum of four to five times per week for 30 minutes with a 12 minute warm up. This doesn’t have to be high intensity – you should be able to carry on a conversation throughout the exercise.
Improve you nutrition (my next several blog posts will discuss diet).
Drink about two liters of water a day. Your body needs water- not coffee, tea, pop, beer or wine.
Take a good multivitamin. I would also suggest taking aged garlic extract and curcumin to enhance immunity and bind heavy metals.
Adequate rest. (read my blog on sleep)
Avoid toxins. Avoid toxins like smoking, alcohol and highly-refined carbohydrates.
Take antibiotics only when you absolutely need them. Make sure the diagnosis is correct and ask the doctor if this could be a virus?
If you are taking antibiotics, take probiotics before and after antibiotics. Don’t take them at the same time – antibiotics kill probiotics! You can also take fructooligosaccarides (FOS) which are food for good bacteria.
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