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Antibiotics and gut flora...

In this modern world we are all exposed to antibiotics in so many ways - if not prescribed a course due to a visit to the doctor or hospital we are indirectly exposed to them in other ways – from farmed animals, poultry, and fish (which are routinely given antibiotics), to eggs, as well as from our fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes and grains (farmers often routinely spray them on their crops to control disease)

What damage do antibiotics do to my gut?

  1. Antibiotics kill off the beneficial bacteria in our gut as well as in other areas and organs

  2. Antibiotics change bacteria, viruses, and fungi to pathogenic

  3. Antibiotics make bacteria resistant to antibiotics so the industry has to make more and more powerful antibiotics

  4. Antibiotics have a direct effect on the immune system making the body more vulnerable to infections

So now let’s get specific!

  • antibiotics ending in ‘cillin’ – these antibiotics kill off two of the main groups of beneficial gut bacteria – lactobacilli and bifidobacteria while allowing the bad guys streptococci and staphylococci to increase in numbers! This allows the bad guys to move out of the bowel and into the intestines …. predisposing one to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

  • antibiotics ending in ‘cycline’ – these antibiotics are often given to teenagers in 3 month or longer course. They have a toxic effect on the gut wall by altering the protein structure of the mucous membranes/ the cellular lining – which cause the gut wall to be vulnerable to invasion by the candida fungus, staphylococci and the anaerobic bacteria clostridia. These antibiotics also alter the immune system allowing it to attack the changed proteins of the mucous membranes – starting an autoimmune response by the immune system.

  • antibiotics ending in ‘mycin’ – these antibiotics demolish the natural colony of E coli in the body, leaving space for pathogenic (the bad guys) E coli to move in. (An extended course of these antibiotics may completely demolish the natural E coli)

Sooo what can I do if I have to have a course of antibiotics!

Well the best thing to do to prevent dysbiosis (an imbalance of flora and subsequent damage of the mucosa) is to:

  • take good quality probiotics during the course of the antibiotics. (Take them two hours away from the antibiotics)

  • keep all sugary and processed foods to a minimum (sugar is a source of food for candida, streptococcus, staphylococcus, some clostridia and as well as worms and parasites)

  • choose fruit and vegetables for fibre rather than from grains

  • eat a wide range of fermented foods

What else affects our gut flora?

  • Other types of prescription medication can damage the gut – from the oral contraceptive pill to sleeping pills, steroid drugs and pain killers. The longer someone is on a medication the more at risk they are of gut damage. (And subsequent malabsorption of food.)

  • Our diet seriously affects our gut flora as mentioned above, too much sugar and processed carbohydrates can increase the numbers of bad bacteria.

Also: stress, chronic illness, ageing, pollution, exposure to hormones in our environment and more.

So, this is why naturopaths focus on the gut!

Reference: Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride 2010

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