Taking antibiotics, whilst sometimes necessary, does cause changes in the composition of your gut microbiome that can have a negative effect on digestive health. The microbiome refers to the community of microorganisms in a particular environment. The gut microbiome is the driving force of the immune system, responsible for many metabolic processes, nutrition absorption, smooth digestion, and even mental health.
Unfortunately, antibiotics reduce the diversity of gut bacteria, causing functional issues to the digestive system, and leaving the host (that’s you) vulnerable to pathogenic bacteria such as Clostridioides difficile.
The good news is that there are a few simple ways to improve the health and diversity of your gut microbiome after a course of antibiotics.
One of the best ways to increase the diversity of gut bacteria is to consume probiotic and fermented foods. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are especially beneficial to the digestive system.
Studies show that those who eat yogurt and fermented milk have higher amounts of beneficial bacteria and lower levels of pathogenic bacteria like Enterobacteria and Bilophila wadsworthia.
Look for foods like kimchi, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso and some aged cheeses can also promote healthy bacteria in the gut. You can also try a broad-spectrum probiotic supplement to help with general gut health.
To help the microbiome bounce back after anti-biotics, you want to keep your good gut bacteria well-fed. Prebiotics are foods that contain a lot of fiber or fermentable carbohydrates. These act like a fertilizer for your probiotics so your gut bacteria can thrive.
You can take prebiotics as supplements or include more prebiotic foods such as apples, bananas, barley, cabbage, oats, Jerusalem artichokes, and garlic.
3. Stress Reduction
Research has shed light on the intricate interplay between our brain, emotional state, and the well-being of our gut through the gut-brain axis—a two-way channel of communication that significantly influences various aspects of our system, including the nervous system and immune function.
Not only does suboptimal gut health trigger stress and mood irregularities but stress and inadequate sleep can also exert detrimental impacts on the gut’s microbial ecosystem.
This means incorporating certain stress-relieving techniques into your daily regimen can actually improve the health and diversity of your gut microbiome.
A study on Tibetan monks found that daily meditation over time can and does increase beneficial gut bacteria. Additionally, the practice of yoga, mindfulness, and focused breathing exercises has been scientifically proven to alleviate stress levels.
Immersing yourself in nature or gardening not only provides immediate stress relief but puts you in contact with an abundance of beneficial microbes from the soil. This is also true of spending close time with pets. Many also explore herbal remedies containing adaptogens to effectively manage stress and mitigate the consequences of persistent stress on the gut.
4. Rest to Digest!
High-quality sleep is a vital aspect of keeping the gut microbiome healthy and balanced. This is because the microbiome and our circadian rhythm are closely connected. Not only that, but it’s important to give the gut an uninterrupted 8-10 hour span for processing food while your body is at rest.
It’s best not to eat between dinner and breakfast the next day, which can help with inflammation, in turn protecting your gut from further damage. Keep your bedroom cool and dark before going to sleep, and avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening.
You can also improve sleep with certain herbal teas and remedies, such as chamomile which has been found in studies to improve sleep quality. Chamomile binds to benzodiazepine receptors to exert a mild tranquilizing effect. Valerian root is another popular remedy for sleep as it contains the natural sedatives valepotriates and sesquiterpenes. Melatonin may also improve insomnia and sleep quality by boosting the hormone that regulates our circadian rhythm.
5. Eat Clean
Eating clean will give your microbiome a fresh new start. You can begin by limiting processed, pro-inflammatory foods.
Foods to Limit:
- Ultra-processed foods
- Red or processed meat
- Refines carbohydrates
- Sodas and ‘energy’ drinks
- Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup
- Artificial trans fats
Try to eat homemade food as much as possible, and always choose the least processed option. The gut also loves a variety of fresh, seasonal produce so try to eat mostly in-season fruits and vegetables. If you’re suffering a GI disorder like IBD or IBS, it’s best to work with a dietician to ensure your needs are being met and any nutritional deficiencies are catered to.