Unfortunately a course of antibiotics may be unavoidable in helping to treat certain colds and flu. Antibiotics frequently disrupt the digestion causing diarhhoea and discomfort. In this article we look at advice on how to minimise antibiotic associated digestive upsets, and advice on diet and nutrition to help speed recovery.
The nights are drawing in and it’s getting colder. And unfortunately this year already seems to be particularly bad for flu and cold bugs. Moreover the prevailing bacterial strains seem to be quite resistant to normal treatments and stubborn to leave the host (i.e. us!). Maybe the warm damp weather is a factor, or perhaps host susceptibility is generally increasing.
Apparently there are more antibiotic prescriptions being written this year than in previous years to deal with secondary bacterial infections post colds and flu. For those of you who are unlucky enough to be in this position – or who are trying to look after suffering family, here is some advice on how to minimise the common gastric side effects associated with antibiotic treatment.
Why Do Antibiotics cause diarrhoea and other gastric problems?
Antibiotic associated diarrhoea occurs when antibiotics (antibacterial medication) upset the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gastro-intestinal tract. Nearly all antibiotics can cause antibiotic-associated diarrhoea (AAD), colitis or pseudomembranous colitis (an inflammation of the colon).
Your digestive tract is a complex ecosystem that’s home to millions of microorganisms (intestinal flora), including hundreds of species of bacteria. Many of these bacteria are beneficial, performing essential functions.
But some of the bacteria that normally inhabit your intestinal tract are potentially harmful. These ‘bad’ bacteria are usually kept in check by our natural ‘good’ or beneficial bacteria however the delicate balance between the two can be disturbed by illness, medications or other factors.
Antibiotics can be especially disruptive to intestinal flora because they destroy beneficial bacteria along with harmful ones. Sometimes, without enough ‘good’ microorganisms in our gut ‘bad’ bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotic you are taking grow out of control, producing toxins that can damage the bowel wall and trigger inflammation. Their presence in large numbers also inhibits growth and reproduction of the native (beneficial strains) as they try to recover their numbers to restore eco balance.
Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) causes the most serious antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. C. difficile is the bacterium responsible for almost all cases of pseudomembranous colitis and many instances of severe antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. Most people acquire a C. difficile infection during a stay in a hospital or nursing home after they’ve received antibiotics and this is particularly difficult to eradicate.
Prevention and Treatment
Here are some suggestions on how you can protect yourself and your family from inflammation of the digestive tract and diarrhoea whilst undergoing antibiotic treatment; and also preventing opportunistic digestive infection such as C. difficile. Throughout the year it is important to maintain good digestive health and helping your good intestinal bacteria thrive will help to reduce the risk of digestive disruption.
Saccharomyces Boulardii is a probiotic which has a wealth of research data supporting its use in gastro intestinal conditions. Saccharomyces Boulardii is unique in that it displaces all other yeast species (such as candida) and prevents their colonisation. In the same way Saccharomyces Boulardii prevents pathogenic bacteria (such as E.Coli) from adhering to the intestinal walls.
Suggested intake: 1 capsule 1 hour after every dose of antibiotic and then twice daily for 1 week after the antibiotic course has finished. For children under 8 years the dose will be modified, follow the product recommendations.
Multi-Strain Live Probiotic Supplement
A multi-strain probiotic supplement will help supplement all the fundamental bacterial populations in the gut. The broader the range of friendly and complementary bacteria that you supplement with, the better you will be able to help your digestion. Since the probiotic effect is strain dependent, with each strain serving a specific inhibition purpose, multiple complementary strains combined act synergistically to combat intestinal infections and to stimulate the body’s natural defences.
Take as follows: take daily as per label instructions.
Aloe Vera Inner Leaf Gel
Aloe Vera contains actives that help reduce inflammation throughout the gastro-intestinal tract. This is particularly helpful post antibiotics and should be taken at a level of 1 dessertspoonful neat before each meal, three times a day during times of discomfort. Aloe also promotes replenishment of the native ‘commensal’ (friendly) gut bacteria, whilst inhibiting candida.
The above supplements collectively will help protect you against resistant bacteria such as C. difficile and will also help to maintain levels of your native beneficial bacteria which in turn will help to protect the lining of your intestines and prevent the replication and build up of pathogens such as candida.
Beta 1-3, 1-6 Glucan
Beta 1-3, 1-6 Glucan is a natural form of soluble dietary fibre, derived from the cell wall of baker’s yeast. Beta 1-3, 1-6 Glucan supplement provides a role in activating the immune system, alerting the body to help defend itself against viral and bacterial invaders. Due to its ability to assist in immune response Beta 1-3, 1-6 Glucan is most commonly associated with colds, flu and infections support.
Take as follows: 1 three times a day will be beneficial during periods of infection. Ideally take once-a-day throughout the year to help maintain immune functions and thus as a preventative measure. For children under 8 years the dose will be modified, follow the product recommendations.
Immune System Health Nutrients
There are a number of vitamins and minerals proven to support the maintenance of the immune system. Obviously a healthy immune system is important throughout the year and during times of illness the immune system will need extra support.
The minerals Selenium and Zinc are beneficial to promote recovery and immune system health and Vitamin C too. You can look for a multivitamin and mineral formula suitable for your gender and age that contains such nutrients.
It is important to note that when we are ill our needs for nutrition increase. Our body’s needs are greater at such times and our ability to uptake nutrients and use them appropriately may be impaired. This is particularly the case when the digestion is impaired by illness. In addition certain nutrients are rapidly depleted (Vitamin C for example is water soluble) and need replenishing regularly.
Diet, Lifestyle, Travel and Exercise:
During antibiotic treatment your ability to digest food will be impaired – however much you try to maintain levels of friendly bacteria; these good bacterial levels will be reduced until the treatment is finished. You can help your digestive system by eating foods that are easy to digest, and better still those that ‘auto-digest’.
Fresh raw fruit and vegetables naturally contain enzymes that help them digest themselves, this process also helps these foods to be broken down in our body and hence is sparing to the output of our own bacteria and enzymes.
Drink plenty of fresh spring water to help promote movement in the lymph and digestive tract to aid removal of dead bacteria and their toxins. Juice with organic fruits and vegetables and herbs to nourish all body cells and particularly the ‘colonocytes’ (colonic epithelial cells); this will also help promote their cleansing and recovery.
Reduce or remove protein intake from animal proteins during the antibiotic treatment as animal protein is difficult to digest, is prone to fermentation if not completely digested, and can promote inflammation. Plant proteins do not present the same problem.
Avoid extreme exercise and activity during illness and minimise travel as much as possible. Light exercise and fresh air are likely to be encouraged.
If you have any questions regarding this article, any of the health topics raised, or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time.