A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how I’m preparing my gut for a round of antibiotics. As people with an autoimmune disease(s), we have a weak gut to begin with; which is why it’s so important to be proactive, instead of reactive, when it comes to antibiotics. However, we can’t always plan these things. And in the instance that you’ve been caught with your gut bacteria obliterated, without any kind of heads up, have no fear! Here is the fast track plan to restoring your good gut bacteria and how I’m healing my gut after antibiotics.
How I’m Healing My Gut After Antibiotics
1. Blood Sugar Balance
High blood sugars (arguably anything above 140mg/dL) will cause inflammation in the body. And as you know, inflammation in the body contributes to leaky gut. No bueno. High blood sugars also do a wonderful job at suppressing your immune system…Double no bueno! Do your best to keep blood sugars stable especially when in a state of healing. Stable blood sugars will help reduce inflammation and balance hormones, which are also essential to healing and rebuilding your helpful gut bacteria.
This is easily the hardest one on this list for me. I struggle immensely with prioritizing my sleep; and I’m not alone. Sleep tends to be overlooked when it comes to good gut health, but recent studies have proved that circadian rhythm disruptions can have negative effects on one’s gut microbiota. And if your gut microbiota is out of balance your cortisol and melatonin production will be affected as well. See the symbiotic relationship here? Getting into a good circadian rhythm is essential to balancing out your hormones and improving your gut health.
So just how much sleep do you need? Depending on your location you may need more sleep in the winter months. This is especially true for anyone living at latitudes above 37 degrees north. I personally like to aim for 8-9 in the summer months and 9-10 in the winter months. Keyword being aim, because like I said, I am really bad at prioritizing sleep.
Move that body. And for the love of bacon, I’m not talking about killing yourself on the elliptical 7 days a week or running for hours on end everyday – we both know that does the body (and mind) more harm than good. I’m talking about regular movement. Lifting heavy things a few times a week. And maybe throwing in a quality sprint once every 7-10 days. Frequent movement is proven to increase the diversity of gut microbes. So finding ways to move more throughout the day will help rebuild your little army of good gut bacteria.
Bonus points if you take your exercise or movement outside. Our bodies excel when exposed to mother nature’s vast array of microorganisms.
Mmm… now on to the good stuff! I am a firm believer that food is medicine. Here are my top three foods I make sure to incorporate into my diet when I’m healing my gut after antibiotics.
Bone Broth: Bone broth is a natural when it comes to healing & sealing your gut. The simmering of these bones leads to the release of gut healing compounds like glutamine, glycine, collagen, and proline. The result is broth that contains minerals that are easily absorbed in the body. The boiled down cartilage and amino acids help to reduce inflammation. Additionally, bone broth contains boat loads of nutrients including arginine, calcium, chondroitin, glucosamine, and magnesium.
Now before I move onto fermented foods, I want to put a spotlight on gelatin for a moment: The gelatin in bone broth attracts and holds liquids (think jello), which is especially important in regards to keeping digestive juices where they need to be. Gelatin contains 18 different amino acids, two of which (glycine and proline) are anti inflammatory and specifically reduce inflammation in the gut. Which is why in addition to bone broth I sprinkle gelatin in almost everything I eat when I’m healing my gut after antibiotics. This is the gelatin brand I personally use.
Fermented Foods (aka Probiotic foods): Probiotic foods contain billions of beneficial bacteria. They help to repopulate your gut bacteria and aid in the production of healthy antibodies (not confused antibodies like the ones currently attacking my pancreas). Fermented foods contain a great deal more probiotics than supplements, however, it’s important to remember that you should eat a variety of fermented foods if your goal is diversity. I can only tolerate sauerkraut, so in addition to sauerkraut I supplement with soil based probiotics (more on that below).
Prebiotic Foods: Prebiotics are food for the probiotics. They are a type of indigestible plant fiber that the probiotics live off of. Without food, your probiotics won’t last very long or do you much good. The more food your probiotics have the better they work – and the happier your gut will be. You can always take a prebiotic supplement, but food sources are always the #1 way to go if you can. Prebiotic foods include :
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Dandelion greens
- Allium vegetables such as garlic, onions, leeks, chives and scallions – raw is the best source of prebiotics
- Potato Skins
- Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
- Raw asparagus
AIP Paleo Low Carb: When healing my gut after antibiotics (or anytime really) I remove all allergenic foods. This includes gluten, grains, dairy, nuts, seeds, fake sugar, nightshades, vegetable oils, soy, legumes, eggs, and alcohol. This diet is also known as AIP Paleo. I take it even one step further and make it low carb. Reason being, it helps me with blood sugar balance (which is all the reason I need – am I right?!), but it also has several other important health benefits including improving cholesterol, increasing insulin sensitivity, and allowing me to not be a slave to my food (because how much of a pain is it to lug around snacks all day because you need to eat every two hours?)
Say it with me, Woo-Saah. The topic of stress & gut health is a pretty loaded topic, so I will just touch on the basics. Stress affects our gut in a number of ways; it hinders the gut brain connection, inhibits nutrient absorption, and lowers enzyme activity. So all that delicious, nutritious food you’re eating won’t do much good if you’re stressed out. That stress is literally preventing your body from digesting and absorbing food properly. Bummer, right?!
Practice mindful eating – it may feel weird at first, but trust me, it will pay off! Another tip to de-stress is to try adding just 5 minutes of yoga or meditation to your daily routine. I’m not a huge fan of yoga, but meditation – boy – I could do that all day!
I’ll be the first to admit that my diet isn’t perfect. I struggle with seafood, have a sweet spot for tortilla chips, and sometimes will go through an entire day only to realize I’ve eaten nothing but fat bombs. When diet falls short, supplements fall in. Some of the best supplements I’ve found to restore gut health are:
Probiotics: Probiotics are microorganisms that play a huge role in gut health. They promote optimal intestinal function and digestion by balancing intestinal microflora. Bonus points if you get soil based probiotics. Soil based probiotics help increase diversity of beneficial gut bacteria because unlike other probiotics, which usually die once they make it to the stomach, soil based probiotics make it all the way into to the intestines. This is the soil based probiotic brand I’m currently using.
Zinc: Zinc Is a powerhouse supplement in the literal sense; it powers your house. Zinc is involved in so many basic cellular functions of the body. In regards to gut health, zinc helps with immunity, digestion & mineral absorption, hormone production, and oxidative stress. The problem with zinc supplements is that your body doesn’t easily absorb supplemental zinc unless it’s first attached to another substance. Chelated zinc is zinc that has been electrically charged, allowing other organic substances to become attached, making it better absorbed by the body.
Selenium: Selenium is an antioxidant mineral that helps minimize gut inflammation. Selenium also helps the thyroid convert T4 into the useable form T3; controlling how much thyroid hormone you make. So what does thyroid health have to do with gut health? Thyroid hormones directly influence cell membranes in the stomach and small intestine. Together, these cell membranes form the impermeable barrier of the gut; preventing leaky gut.
7. Avoid Toxic Chemicals
This one is kind of obvious, but it still gets a spot on the list. Toxic chemicals can be hiding in food, beauty products, cleaning products, and furniture. Not only are they damaging to the gut, but also every organ system in the body. I try my best to avoid toxic chemicals all the time, but especially when I’m working on healing my gut after antibiotics.
There you have it! These are the steps I’m taking on healing my gut after antibiotics. I hope this list is helpful for you!