Photo Credit: Charles Williams, Meds, Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License, September 2013, Edited.
In case you haven’t heard, your “gut,” aka your digestive system, is pretty much your immune system. Our digestive systems are inhabited by bazillions (technical term) of microbes- both good and bad. You’ve probably heard of probiotics- these are strains of beneficial microbes that are good for us. The beneficial microbes help keep the bad guys in check- keeping their numbers low and therefore keeping us healthy. They also help us obtain nutrients from the foods we eat. These microbes are vital to our lives, and control practicaly everything- much, much more than we currently understand.
And then there are antibiotics. To quote Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride from her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome:
Antibiotics have a devastating effect on beneficial bacteria in the human body, not only in the gut but in other organs and tissues.
Antibiotics change bacteria, viruses and fungi from benign to pathogenic, giving them an ability to invade tissues and cause disease.
Antibiotics make bacteria resistant to antibiotics, so the industry has to work on more and more powerful new antibiotics to attack these new changed bacteria.
Antibiotics have a direct damaging effect on the immune system, making us more vulnerable to infections, which leads to a vicious cycle of more antibiotics and more infections.
(For more information on this, I highly recommend Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD, MMedSci (neurology), MMedSci (nutrition).)
Now that we’ve established how important the microbes in our guts are and how awful antibiotics are, allow me to disclose that I, antibiotic hater and gut lover, recently took two rounds of antibiotics. Right before I want to try for another baby. Because that makes sense.
But really, I had some crazy ear/sinus infection that was showing no signs of leaving, so I broke down and took antibiotics… twice. I just got to the point where I was too miserable to give a flying flip about my gut health, you know? (Interestingly, as fate would have it, the antibiotics did not seem to work at all. Maybe they did something I was unaware of, but my body pretty much seemed to get well on it’s own, over an exceedingly long two month period…)
However, I’m not one to beat myself up over things that are done. I prefer to make a plan and move on. So, what do to when you’ve destroyed your gut balance? Fix it, my friends.
Dr. Natasha says [after taking antibiotics] “it takes beneficial bacteria in the gut a long time to recover: physiological E.coli takes one to two weeks, Bifidobacteria and Veillonelli take two the three weeks, Bacteriods and Peptostreptococci take a month.”
Here’s what I’ve been doing lately:
(1) Gettin’ my probiotic on. There are a lot of things you can do to help your gut, the biggest of which is to consume probiotics. My goal is variety, so I’m consuming supplements, homemade fermented foods, and store-bought fermented foods like a lunatic. I start my morning with solid gold probiotic capsules. Ok, not really, but the probiotic pills I’m taking are so expensive one might expect them to contain gold (but really they’re just that good). I take them three times a day. I also drink a little milk kefir smoothie, take a tablespoon of coconut water kefir (liquid, purchased from the refrigerated section of the health food store), eat some home-fermented veggies, and toss in some store-bought fermented veggies for good measure- all spread throughout the day.
(2) Avoiding grains, dairy, and sugars. In addition to adding probiotics to my diet, I’ve also temporarily removed foods that feed “bad” bacteria. I want to give the good guys a leg up during the race to repopulate my gut. Dr. Natasha says:
Too many sugary foods and processed carbohydrates increase numbers of different [opportunistic microbes]. A diet high in fibre from grains… has a profound negative effect in the gut flora, gut health and general body metabolism…
I eliminated all of these things at once, and let me tell you, if murder was legal I would have been partaking. I was in a foul mood. Foul. But never fear, after four or so days I returned to the land of the happy, law-abiding living. I have allowed small amounts of honey to remain in my diet simply because I still don’t know if what I had was allergy-related, and raw, local honey can help with allergies. I have also recently added back in a small amount of milk kefir (for probies) and high vitamin butter oil in my FCLO, but both of those are lactose free (lactose is a sugar in dairy that can cause digestive issues.)
(3) Considering GAPS intro. If you really want to heal and seal your gut, you can just cut to the chase and follow the GAPS intro diet. GAPS is the temporary healing diet (outlined in Gut and Psychology Syndrome) from which many people have benefitted- those with allergies, autoimmune issues, autism, depression, gastro issues- basically everything. While this might seem a bit drastic for someone who only had a [long] sinus infection, there are three reasons I am considering this step.
I want to get pregnant pretty quickly after taking these antibiotics. I now know my gut health is vital to the health of my future children, so I need to be sure my gut is rebuilt. The GAPS intro is the most sure-fire and effective way I know to heal and seal the gut quickly.
There is the possibility allergies contributed to my sinus fiasco. Seasonal allergies are actually a sign of poor gut health, and GAPS can often eliminate seasonal allergies by restoring gut health.
And finally, Bridger broke out in hives everywhere dairy (pasteurized and raw) touched his skin when I first gave it to him when he was one. Food allergies and sensitivities (and eczema, although thankfully he did not have this) are indicators of poor gut health in the child, and guess where babies get their gut health? From their mothers. During the birth process via passing through the birth canal, and also through breast milk. (Fortunately, Bridger outgrew the topical reaction to dairy- and he never experienced any other reactions to it as far as I could tell- but it certainly makes me question my own gut health.)
Dr. Natasha recommends an introductory period on the diet- referred to as ”GAPS Intro”- where you quickly heal and seal and gut, and then a regular diet phase lasting up to two years where you eat a wider but still limited variety of foods that facilitate healing the gut.
I’m considering doing Intro for a month, and then reassessing my situation. I have gotten my hands on a the most wonderful creation ever if you are considering the GAPS intro diet- an ebook by Cara from Health Home Happiness called What Can I Eat Now? 30 Days on the GAPS Intro Diet. It is pretty much the best thing that ever happened to my GAPS Intro dreams, since she lists out what to eat each day of the diet. I was feeling completely overwhelmed trying to map out what to eat and when to eat it until I found out about this book. (By the way, her entire site is a huge GAPS resource. If you’re GAPS-curious, go check it out.)
So there you have it. How I’m healing and rebuilding my gut. I’m about 90% ready to commit to the GAPS intro, although after reading everything I just wrote, it’s pretty clear to me that I should just suck it up and do it. It will be a hard month, but I’m sure I’ll be glad I did it once it’s over!
What have you done for your gut lately? Ooh ooh ooh yeah.
Have you ever done GAPS?
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