It can be a challenge to keep the invaders out and to not get affected by ills and chills when it is all around, or simply because the body has trouble to keep defences up when stress and busy times are on the cards. And sometimes it just does get to the stage where antibiotics are necessary. The effect of these on the gut is now well researched. Fortunately, nature provides us with some great options to be proactive and to support the body during these times.
Following a previous blog, Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Gut Health, here are some valuable tips for strengthening the body’s immune response naturally, restoring intestinal microflora and supporting digestive health following a course of antibiotic medication.
GARLIC is nature’s antiseptic, recognized for centuries by herbalists for its powerful properties. It supports the body’s natural ability to fight invaders and helps to balance gut flora. It can be eaten cooked, raw or taken in odourless capsules to support your natural immunity. It’s important when taking probiotic and garlic supplements that you take them at separate times – preferably at opposite ends of the day – because garlic’s action will destroy some of the probiotic bacteria if taken together.
ECHINACEA is a herb with remarkable antiseptic and immune supportive actions helping the body’s defences. As a supplement, it’s available in tablets, tincture or fluid extract to promote a natural resistance to ills and chills. HealthPost has great supplement options available, for example, Kiwiherb Echinature (Echinacea purpurea root extract) or Thompson’s Ultra Echinacea Complex.
OLIVE LEAF is another valuable herb with a variety of actions. As well as having immune strengthening and antioxidant properties, olive leaf assists the immune response to foreign invaders and supports balanced flora in the bowel.
GINGER provides a further choice of support for the digestive system and the immune system. It aids digestion while at the same time helping to calm spasms and bloating. This herb helps a normal inflammatory response and has warming and stimulating qualities.
VITAMIN C – well known for its support for the immune system, but it is also important for adrenal gland function. The adrenal glands secrete hormones which help to deal with stress and balance immune system responses, requiring vitamin C. Both actions support the body systems to better manage any imbalances and to recover normally.
B vitamins are synthesized in the gut by friendly bacteria, so when these have been altered by antibiotics the body’s production of B vitamins is lowered. Any gut flora imbalance may affect the amount of Biotin, B5 and B6 that are produced. B-vitamins are important for many reactions in the body including immune system response, energy production, sleep and mood. Replenishing them with a B-Complex supplement is a good way to support wellbeing and recovery after antibiotics.
COLOSTRUM, the first milk produced by humans and other mammals to nourish their newborn offspring. It is very supportive of a healthy immunoglobulin production, has a restorative action on body tissues and aids to balance gut flora. Its main role is immune supportive, providing the optimum life-enhancing support for the infant in the first few days of life.
FERMENTED FOODS such as kombucha, kefir, raw yoghurt, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, rejuvelac, and other lacto-fermented vegetables or fruits all help promote a healthy intestinal environment and provide a good source of the beneficial bacteria strains required for balanced gut flora. It is a good idea to introduce this kind of foods and drinks slowly into the diet otherwise they may cause bloating and spasms. Depending on the state of the digestive system it is good advice to consult a health professional to get some guidance on what is best to apply.
GO SUGAR-free. Instead enjoy nutrient-dense foods like spirulina, green powders, berries, dark chocolate (in small amounts) and brightly coloured vegetables. Unfriendly gut flora thrives on refined sugar. Sugar also competes with vitamin C for absorption so it weakens the immune system too.
VEGETABLES that support healthy gut flora are garlic, onions, kale, turnips, horseradish, cabbage and broccoli. Eat these regularly to improve your intestinal health. Vegetables from the brassica family are generally better digested when cooked. Occasionally snacking on raw broccoli is okay but eating raw brassicas regularly or in high quantity can irritate the digestive tract, causing bloating, gas or abdominal cramping. Goitrogens contained in raw brassicas can also suppress iodine uptake and interfere with thyroid function, but these are reduced through cooking or fermenting processes.