Unnecessary use of antibiotics, as well as over-the-counter drugs, may disrupt gut health. “Though in the right context, these drugs can be good for our health,” internal medicine doctor Austin Perlmutter, M.D., says, “over time, and when used inappropriately, they appear to disrupt the health of the microbiome and gut barrier.”
“In fact, antibiotic-induced microbiota alterations can remain after long periods of time, spanning months and even years,” one study says. This change in the gut microbiome may end up affecting immunity.
“Anything that alters the normal state of the gut and its flora can impact its function,” she says, “and antibiotics kill off a wide swath of the microbiome.”
This does not mean that you should never take antibiotics, of course, which can be quite helpful in combating bacterial infections. However, it does mean that you should use them judiciously. If your doctor is prescribing an antibiotic, be sure you know why and what it is for. Remember that antibiotics do not impact viral infections, so ask plenty of questions before taking one and make sure there is a very good reason to do so! You could also try a natural antibiotic alternative instead.
If you do have a bacterial infection (such as a UTI, bacterial pneumonia, or strep throat), complete your prescribed course of antibiotics, and then take immediate steps to begin rebuilding your microbiome and improving your gut health in order to replenish your immune system as soon as possible.