Tips for Self-Care While on Antibiotics

the meme is cute, the infection...not so much

the meme is cute, the infection…not so much

In the last few months, I’ve been on four rounds of antibiotics pretty much back to back. Yep, I napalmed my precious gut flora.

Sadly it was a necessary evil. Natural remedies didn’t do the trick and there was a real danger that, left unchecked, the infection would spread and do serious damage.

So I reluctantly took the pills but made damn sure that I was supporting my system in the meantime – doing a lot of research about how best to support my gut health, rebuild my flora with natural probiotics and strengthen my immune system naturally.

If you’re in a similar situation, don’t despair. Sometimes antibiotics are a necessary evil but implementing some of the tips below can help you recover from both the illness, and its cure.

#1 Up your probiotics

Antibiotics are the slash and burn of prescription drugs. They don’t just kill the ‘bad’ bacteria, they kill everything. And that’s terrible news for the many colonies of helpful bacteria that are vital for digestion and maintaining your immune system.

To help the “good” guys come back and do their thing, it’s important to make sure you’re taking probiotics – either a very good supplement or eating probiotic-rich foods (or, ideally, both).

Probiotic rich foods include yoghurt (preferably organic and full-fat, the low-fat stuff can harm your fertility among other things); sauerkraut; kombucha; kimchi; kefir; pickles.

this might be a good time to make my bratwurst, apple & sauerkraut skillet

this might be a good time to make my bratwurst, apple & sauerkraut skillet

If in doubt, think fermented – if it’s fermented then it’s been growing the good bacteria that your body needs. Eat as much of these as you can on a daily basis while taking your antibiotic, and for a few weeks afterwards.

NB: whether you’re supplementing or eating your probiotics, be sure to take/eat them at a different time from your prescription. It’s counter-intuitive to ingest both probiotics and antibiotics at the same time.

#2 Support your immune system

The antibiotics may kill your infection, but because they’ve also done a number on your own flora, you will be more susceptible to viruses and bugs after you’ve finished the course.

oregano (in pill and drop form)

oregano (in pill and drop form) is a powerful natural antibiotic

It might be a good idea at this time to get some natural defences into your diet. I drank at least two cups of echinacea tea a day for a few weeks after my last course of pills. This herb is a powerful immune system booster and can be taken in pill form too if you hate the taste.

Other immune system friendly herbs/spices include goldenseal, tumeric, ginger, ginseng, oregano and garlic.

You might also want to consider supplementing with zinc, vitamin D and vitamin C – all widely recognised as cold and flu fighters.

#3 Drink some bone broth

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I’ll probably never stop saying it: bone broth is an honest-to-God superfood. It’s a nutrient-dense powerhouse of vital minerals and vitamins.

my homemade lamb bone broth

my homemade lamb bone broth

It doesn’t contain probiotics but it is very restorative for the gut and, as a bonus, is also great for your immune system.

If the idea of piling animal bones into a pot and letting them bubble for hours on end doesn’t appeal, you can order ready-made (grass-fed and organic too!) bone broth from The Bone Broth Co.

#4 Sleep well

When I was sick Hubs berated me for keeping up my gym schedule. I quickly realised he was right and took a few weeks to sleep in a manner that would impress hibernating bears.

Sleep is one of the most overlooked, and yet vital, defence mechanisms the body has. Chronic sleep loss can seriously impair your immune system so it doesn’t make sense to force yourself awake for that 6am cardio class or stay up ’til 2am surfing the net when you’re dealing with an infection and trying to get your body back to its fighting best.

Now is the time to badger your partner about that long lie-in and breakfast in bed you’ve always wanted.

exactly

exactly

#5 Clean up your diet

I’m not gonna lie. This one hurt me. It hurt me so bad that I pitched a screaming hissy fit one night when Hubs had the temerity to eat ice cream in front me (I’m not proud but it happens).

Sugar feeds bacteria, and that’s the very last thing you want when you’re trying to beat a bacterial infection. Not only that but I was warned by my doctor that the antibiotics she prescribed were “very likely” to cause a yeast infection. Yeast infections love sugar so it wasn’t a hard decision to cut the white devil out of my diet completely.

Following through was tough, but worth it. I didn’t get a yeast infection and I actually felt great once the initial cravings and madness wore off (see aforementioned tantrum).

When fighting an infection or trying to rebuild your flora afterwards, it’s important to remember that whatever you eat, your bacteria eats. Give the good guys plenty of probiotics, fresh vegetables and nourishing fats. Starve the bad guys of sugar and processed carbs.

And when you’re back to your old self, celebrate with some sauerkraut brownies!

Weigh in: How often do you take antibiotics? What tips would you add to my list? Do you also hate the taste of echinacea (blurgh)? 

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9 thoughts on “Tips for Self-Care While on Antibiotics

  1. These are wonderful tips! You know I’m a fan of your writing, research, and sense of humor. It’s hard to know what hurts and what helps as far as staying healthy goes- there are so many conflicting opinions out there. I just wanted to mention that for certain issues/not antibiotic related, Drs are recommending a lowfat diet: http://www.cleveland.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2011/03/low-fat_diet_exercise_can_ease.html . It’s definitely one of those things where it’s important to look at the pros/cons, and I’m grateful for your links in helping to weigh the issue.

    • Thanks for your input – I agree that there’s a lot of info out there and it’s hard to know what’s for the best. I’m a firm believer in looking at diet before drugs 🙂

  2. I love this blog! So many ideas that are helpful! I too had a series of antibiotics for an infection. I wondered if taking probiotics at the same time was contributing to a superbug! When I stopped the probiotics, the antibiotic took hold and did its job. But maybe there were other factors involved.
    Evelyn
    Here’s to Your Health!
    evelynmmaxwell.com

    • Thanks Evelyn. I’ve never heard anything about probiotics reducing the efficacy of antibiotics but interesting to hear your experiences. Thanks for reading & commenting!

  3. Very thorough! Am heading upstairs right now for my probiotic supplement, between antibiotic doses. I think probiotics are vital when on medication against bacteria. I got into serious yeast troubles after a prolonged antibiotic regimen once, which taught me the importance of probiotics. Now I never go without and have avoided fungal infections ever since. Hope you are feeling better now!

    • Thanks Vinny. I think the last round wiped it out (phew! was staring down the barrel of a fifth round of pills!). Get well soon to you too!

  4. Pingback: Immunity Tea | Things My Belly Likes

  5. People who are overweight/concerned about their weight tend to eat low-fat foods. They also tend to be at higher risk for infertility/ovulation problems. The study you linked convinces me of correlation, not causation. Nevertheless, I find that eating full-fat foods (and smaller portions) makes me feel better anyway! I regularly take antibiotics for rosacea, ocular rosacea, and Morbihan’s disease. I’m on them weekly for the next year, so I’ve been drinking a ton of Kefir! I forgot about protecting my immune system as well with other things, so thanks for the tip!

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