It’s that time of the year where we see lots of sicknesses and the overuse of antibiotics. Important to note: This post obviously is not about COVID-19, because as a virus, a coronavirus is not touched by antibiotics and they should not be used at all. But people are still getting sick with normal winter/spring germs, and it’s important to know what we’re doing when it comes to antibiotics.
There are several reasons why we don’t want to use antibiotics unnecessarily including increased antibiotic resistance and the impact on our gut health.
You probably know that antibiotics don’t cure viral infections such as the common cold and influenza. But did you know that 80% of childhood pneumonia cases are viral? Also, 80% of ear infections in healthy children over 6 months old will resolve on their own.
Even bronchitis, which you probably remember receiving antibiotics for as a child, is often viral, and antibiotics are no longer recommended. (source)
RELATED: Even in the case of a bacterial infection that is treatable with antibiotics, you may be able to support the immune system naturally and avoid antibiotics.
Yet as of 2013 it was estimated that 10 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions were written each year. (source)
Before we get any further I’d like to point out that while I am a doctor, I’m not your doctor or your child’s doctor. If you are concerned about your child or yourself, please contact your doctor. This is not medical advice.
What Happens After Antibiotics?
When you take a round of antibiotics, it doesn’t distinguish between the bad bacteria causing the infection and the good bacteria in your gut. In addition to wiping out the infection, you will also decimate the healthy bacteria.
Sometimes the benefits of the antibiotics outweigh the risks. We’ll talk in a bit about what you can do to restore your gut microbiome after taking antibiotics.
But when possible, it’s best to avoid the side effects of antibiotics. Imbalance in the gut (or dysbiosis as it’s called) puts you at an increased risk for developing long term health problems such as eczema and asthma.
Do Antibiotics Cause Eczema?
Let’s look at some studies looking at eczema after antibiotics.
In 2010, Clinical & Experimental Allergy published a study looking at 773 children ages 0-4 years old. In this case, they found that prenatal exposure to antibiotics through the mother and exposure through breastmilk was significantly associated with increased eczema in the children.
The British Journal of Dermatology examined 20 studies in 2013. This systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies, involving children or young adults aged 0-25 years, assessed the impact of antibiotic exposure either in utero or during the first 12 months of life on subsequent eczema risk. There was a significant dose-response association, suggesting a 7% increase in the risk of eczema for each additional antibiotic course received during the first year of life.
Pediatric Allergy & Immunology published a longitudinal study in 2013 involving parents and children. They looked at the genetic tendency to develop allergic diseases (including asthma and eczema). A robust and dose-dependent association was found between antibiotic use in the first 2 years of life and asthma at age 7.5 years. Which leads us to…
Studies Linking Antibiotics and Asthma
A 2009 study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that antibiotic usage in the 1st year of life was associated with an increased risk of developing asthma. The more rounds of antibiotics, the higher the risk.
JAMA looked at 13,116 children in 2007 and found that they were significantly more likely to have asthma by age 7 if they had received antibiotics in the first year of life. The risk was highest among children who had received more than four courses of antibiotics.
The Journal of Pediatrics found an increased risk of asthma in children whose mothers took antibiotics during the 3rd trimester in a 2012 study.
No parent likes to see their child sick. Nighttime coughs can be annoying and fevers can get downright scary, but antibiotics are generally not the answer for otherwise healthy children with minor illness.
How to Reduce Side Effects From Antibiotics
Let’s face it, sometimes antibiotics have to happen.
We have discussed some of the side effects of antibiotics. Now let’s talk about one simple way to protect the gut from antibiotic damage.
If you have to take antibiotics, rebalance your gut with probiotics and use the following applesauce to protect the gut.
The pectin from the apples is protective for your gut. Pectins are plant cell-wall polysaccharides that can be utilized by bacteria in the gut to your benefit. (source)
Apple-derived pectin is the main soluble fiber in apples and can be fermented by gut microbiota in the colon to produce metabolites with local intestinal and systemic effects. Apple-derived pectin may also help to maintain the balance of gut microbiota as seen in rat models. (source)Print
Gut protecting applesauce to take while you’re on antibiotics.
- 3 apples
- 1/8–1/4 c raisins
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- Core and cube the apples with skin on
- Add to a saucepan with raisins, cinnamon, and enough water to submerge the apples 1/3 of the way
- Boil for 5 minutes, until the apple skin is shiny
- Let mixture cool and blend
- Store in the fridge
- Take 2 tbsp 3 times a day while on antibiotics
- Serving Size: 2 tbsp
- Calories: 39
- Sugar: 7.5 g
- Sodium: 1 mg
- Fat: 0.1 g
- Carbohydrates: 10.5 g
- Fiber: 2 g
- Protein: 0.3 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
Keywords: gut health, no added sugar
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What About Antibiotics in Meat
Even if we cut out all the unnecessary antibiotic usage in the medical field, we still have another problem.
Over 75% of the antibiotics used in the US are used in livestock. Less than 25% is used for humans.
The FDA has testing guidelines to ensure that little to no antibiotics are in meat prepared for human consumption. However, this antibiotic usage contributes to the creation of more antibiotic-resistant bacteria which can affect humans and the environment. (source)
No matter how much we curb our usage of antibiotics in humans, if we continue using them in animals to this degree, we aren’t making a difference in the overall usage. This is why it’s so important to purchase meat raised without antibiotics. Katie recommends grass-fed, pastured meat:
Where to Find Grassfed, Pastured, Organic Meat:
I love my raw milk farm, and they usually have beef for me too – but not all the cuts. And chicken is hard to come by. And pork is hit or miss.
I’m sure you’ve experienced the same sourcing frustrations!
That’s why I’m always grateful that there’s an online source of incredibly high quality meat that I can always count on. A box from Butcher Box is guaranteed to be grassfed/organic/pastured/free range = all the labels important to your family’s health!
If you live in an area (like my mom) where organic local farms are nowhere to be found or have trouble sourcing certain meats or cuts, Butcher Box has you covered.
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Best Probiotic When Taking an Antibiotic
Katie here for this section. 🙂 One of my favorite probiotics is from JustThrive because it’s the only probiotic I’ve ever heard of that you can take while you take antibiotics without killing them off right away. Learn more here and use the code “Katie15” for 15% Off!
Thanks so much to Dr. Ana-Maria for sharing about some long-term side effects of antibiotics and sharing her applesauce recipe with us!
Dr. Ana-Maria Temple is a Pediatrician living in Charlotte, NC. Most families are frustrated with the care they receive in our broken health care system. Dr. Ana-Maria helps families implement changes for a better way of life. Her approach helps children and families achieve a better quality of life with less missed school days, less doctor visits, and less medications. Through a personalized approach, her mission is to elevate the health of the entire family, one individual at a time.
Dr. Ana-Maria is a pediatrician specializing in children’s wellness, mother of 3, and practices what she preaches. Her mission is to change kid’s and family’s lives through clinical work and education.