A lot of recent research has been pointing to the intricate connection between our gut microbiome and the health of the rest of our bodies, especially our brains. Compromised gut health has been linked to autoimmune diseases, depression, mood disorders, and more. So when your microbiota takes a hit, either from lifestyle factors or antibiotics, replenishing your microbiome can make a big difference.
I unfortunately ended up with a case of bronchitis and a cough that would not go away this winter, and was prescribed a round of doxycycline. Antibiotics aren’t discriminate, so even good bacteria in your body can be killed, and your gut bacteria are the first bacteria exposed to the antibiotic. Poor gut bugs! But there are supplements and food stuffs that can help replenish a depleted microbiome. Here are 5 ways to do just that.
#1 Take a high culture count probiotic
Whether probiotics are truly beneficial has yet to be thoroughly studied, but there is evidence that supplementing with probiotics can indeed help the gut recover. Typically the probiotics in supplements and food don’t take up permanent residence in the gut, but they do kind of hang out for a bit as they’re passing through, preventing bacteria that’s not as good for our gut from establishing. For an in depth discussion on gut bacteria, here’s a video from Found My Fitness, where Dr. Rhonda Patrick interviews doctors Justin and Erica Sonnenburg, authors of The Good Gut.
#2 Drink cultured beverages
Cultured drinks like kombucha, dairy kefir, and water kefir can provide high counts of bacteria. Not all bacteria are adapted to survive stomach acid, so it’s important to choose products that have more than one strain of bacteria in them. Products typically list the types of bacteria that have been cultured in them.
#3 Eat fermented protein
Yogurt might be the first protein to come to mind, but lacto-fermented meats also count. Corned beef is an example of this. Fermented fish is a popular item in Scandinavian countries, but might be less appealing to our American palates. Another fermented protein option is natto, although this takes some getting used to as well.
#4 Eat fermented veggies
Fermented veggies are a little easier to incorporate into your diet, and you might already be doing it! Refrigerated pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi are examples of fermented veggies. Just be sure the products you buy note that they are raw & fermented, or contain live cultures.
#5 Eat prebiotic fiber
The thing about bacteria is that they’re alive, and therefor need food. Complex carbohydrates feed the strains of bacteria most beneficial for our gut (and simple carbs, i.e. sugar, feed strains that aren’t as great), so eating enough fiber is key to maintaining a healthy gut garden. The best way to obtain this fiber is from whole foods like cruciferous vegetables, and perhaps legumes and grains if you tolerate them well. You can also try a prebiotic supplement, like Natural Stacks Prebiotic+.
On a final note, some people have gut dysbiosis that requires much more aggressive methods, including probiotic enemas and fecal matter transplants. Yep, those are actually things. Poop pills exist, friends. If you feel like you might have a severe microbiome inbalance, talk to your doctor, or a functional medicine doc or naturopath, to help you diagnose, and start a program to re-balance your bacteria. If you’re dealing with ANY type of chronic or autoimmune disease, your gut is likely off-balance, and can even be leaky, and it’s imperative to restore balance in order to heal.
- ScienceDirect – The Impact of the Gut Microbiota on Human Health: An Integrative View
- Wikipedia – Doxycycline
- The Wellness Blog – Choosing the Right Probiotic for Your Body
- Live Science – Don’t Be Fooled: 5 Probiotics Myths
- Science Life – Do probiotics work?
- Mercola.com – How Your Microbiome Controls Your Health
- Culturesforhealth.com – Lacto-fermenting meat and fish
- SF Gate Healthy Eating – Examples of Prebiotic Foods