Preventing damage caused by antibiotics
Antibiotics are definitely required in certain circumstances, although are over prescribed in my opinion. Antibiotics have the unfortunate effect of reducing levels of healthy gut bacteria (flora). Currently known functions of our normal healthy flora include:
- Produce short chain fatty acids which are needed by the intestinal mucosa for energy
- Produce biofilm (mucus barrier) to protect intestinal mucosa
- Interact with the gut associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) – 70% of immune system, e.g.
- Improves antibody formation
- Reduce allergies (eczema and asthma)
- Regulate cytokine levels / inflammation modulation
- Synthesize nutrients (certain amino acids and vitamins)
- Improve digestion/absorption
- Inhibit the overgrowth of harmful bacteria, yeast, viruses and parasites
- Improve intestinal motility and stool formation
- Influence genetic expression
- Assist the detoxification of various substances and convert some toxins into less toxic forms:
- Hormones (e.g. estrogen)
- Potentially carcinogenic chemicals
- Lipids (e.g. cholesterol)
What can we do to prevent and counteract the damage caused by antibiotics?
1. Antibiotics can cause an overgrowth of yeasts and some bacteria such as Clostridium difficile. One method of preventing this is to take a supplement of "friendly yeast" Saccharomyces boulardii. Saccharomyces boulardii temporarily inhabits to gut, preventing overgrowth of harmful yeasts and some bacteria. Take one capsule 3 times daily during and for 2 weeks after antibiotic therapy. In Australia SB Floractiv by Bioceuticals is the Saccharomyces boulardii I recommend. Saccharomyces boulardii is available under the name Florastor in many other countries.
2. The next step is replacement of healthy gut flora which are reduced in numbers by antibiotics. There are many different kinds of gut bacteria, not all are available in supplement form and levels vary from person to person. There is no one sized fits all approach. Some people need to supplement bifidobacterium and avoid acidophilus, for example. The ideal method is to test intestinal flora levels via stool testing and use an individual approach. I strongly recommend the 'Microbial Ecology Profile’ via Metametrix Laboratory. It gives a quantitative and qualitative analysis of gut bacterial balance, measuring a total of 9 microbial species, plus any other opportunistic or pathogenic bacteria. The results from many other labs which do intestinal flora analysis are close to useless.