Antibiotics have played a historic role in treating infectious disease.
They are lifesaving and continue to be an important first-line treatment for bacterial infections.
They are, however, not without their side effects, and what you do after antibiotics is crucial.
What can happen after antibiotics?
Antibiotics are used to directly kill or impact the growth and survival of infection-causing bacteria.
The problem is they also negatively affect the beneficial bacteria that live in our gut and many other areas of out body such as in the lungs and on the skin.
Did you know that even one course of antibiotics has the potential to make long-lasting problematic shifts in your child’s gut bug environment?
Beneficial gut bugs make up a collection of microbes known as the gut microbiome; which also includes archaea, viruses, yeasts and other eukaryotic microbes.
Having a healthy balanced gut microbiome confers endless positive health benefits. It prevents pathogen colonisation, regulates gut and systemic immunity, provides essential nutrients and bioactive metabolites such as butyrate (a major anti-inflammatory powerhouse), supports energy homeostasis and even emotional regulation.
Broad- spectrum antibiotics can greatly affect the gut microbiome by reducing beneficial gut bacteria and opening up pockets for harmful inflammatory bacteria and other unwanted guests such as an overgrowth of yeasts. These unfavourable changes in the types and numbers of bacteria and other microbes in the gut is termed ‘gut dysbiosis’.
There can be a variety of different ways in which a child’s gut microbiome can respond and shift in response to antibiotics.
One potential consequence is a Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection. C. diff is a bacteria that causes diarrhoea and colitis and most cases occur while you are on antibiotics or shortly afterwards. C. diff is responsible for what is known as antibiotic-associated diarrhoea.
Another potential outcome is the overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans. This guy is a normal part of the gut microbiome but when given the chance, can overgrow and start causing some nasty symptoms including ongoing stomach pains, nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, fatigue, and joint pain.
With this understanding, we can feel empowered to take charge of our child’s health and support the health of their little gut and their gut microbiome after antibiotics.
So, what can I do to support my child’s gut after antibiotics?
If your child has needed antibiotics, there are lots of things you can do to help support them during and after antibiotics.
First and foremost, you will want to take a good quality probiotic with well-researched strains that have been shown to help reduce the impact of antibiotics on your child’s gut microbiome and reduce the risk of firstly antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and secondly ongoing gut dysbiosis-driven digestive and systemic health issues.
The strains backed by scientific evidence include Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG (LGG) and Saccharomyces boulardii (SB).
You will want at least one of these strains in your supplemental probiotic at the optimal dose that the research suggests. For LGG that is 10-20 billion CFU and for SB 5-10 billion CFU.
Don’t wait to start until after antibiotics. Start the probiotic as soon as you can, from Day 1 of the antibiotic course if you can. Continue for the duration of the course and for at least another 4 weeks afterwards.
Add probiotic-rich foods daily
Probiotic foods contain live bacteria that help to maintain or improve health. Probiotics in supplemental form have the bonus of being easy to add to a daily plan but food as medicine always has a fundamental role in supporting gut health.
The most common go-to foods for probiotics include yoghurt, kefir, fermented veggies and kombucha.
Our recommendation for yoghurt is Vaalia Probiotic yoghurt as it contains Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG; the right strain or type of beneficial bacteria to reduce the negative effects associated with antibiotics by dealing with potential pathogens and improving natural balance. Vaalia also contains Bifidobacterium animalis BB12; a probiotic strain that has been shown to support the digestion of food, absorption of nutrients and elimination of wastes.
Kefir is a fermented milk and can also be found based on coconut water. Kombucha is a fermented tea. Make sure you choose brands with no added sugar or nasty fillers.
If you going to explore fermented veggies, make sure you buy the ones from the fridge section of your supermarket or health food store as these have been made using traditional bacterial fermentation methods as opposed to preserving veggies in vinegar.
There are loads of fermented veggies to explore and they are quite easy to make yourself. There is the traditional sauerkraut made with cabbage then there is the Korean spicy version called Kimchi, mixtures of cabbage, carrot and beetroot and others flavoured with different herbs and spices. Something different to have on rotation every day if you wanted.
Check out our recipe for Pink krauty- kraut.
Eat foods high in ‘prebiotic’ fibre
Prebiotics are special fibre-rich foods that specifically feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut. These guys need all the support they can get after taking a hit with the antibiotics.
Feed them with garlic, leeks, onions, asparagus, artichokes and dandelion greens, rolled oats, chia seeds and flax seeds.
There are also other foods that have prebiotic-like effects such as resistant starches and polyphenol-rich foods.
Resistant starches include
- Rice, potatoes and pasta that has been cooked and cooled. Try a cold potato salad using red and purple and your everyday potatoes, with boiled egg, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, celtic seas salt and fresh herbs such as parsley.
- Green banana flour which can be added to a smoothie
- Whole grains such as barley and oats
- Lentils, beans and peas
Polyphenol-rich foods is anything with lovely deep colours such as
- Blueberries, blackberries, cherries, pomegranate
- Olives, red onions, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables
- All the types of nuts and seeds- chia, flax, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds
- Matcha green tea, dark chocolate and cacao powder
- Herbs and spices such as rosemary, cloves, sage, oregano, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon
I’m thinking golden lattes or matcha lattes on almond milk, choc berry smoothie bowls with nut and seed toppings, legume pasta with olives, red onion and spinach leaves.
Play around with this chocolate milkshake and add in some extra dark berries.
Thinking you might need some extra support?
If you feel like your child just isn’t bouncing back after antibiotics or you are really wanting some individualised support, we are here to help.
You will be provided with quality probiotic supplements and an individualised plan to support your child’s recovery.
Depending on the reason for the antibiotics, we will also dive deep into how best to avoid any future need for them.
Book in today with one of our practitioners to get the right support for your child.