Antibiotics, Fermented Foods, and Your Health

My Mistake

Yesterday, I ate some yogurt that was two days past the expiration date. I usually would not do this because I am highly susceptible to food poisoning; but the other day my co-worker, Carol, told me she does it all the time with no problems.

I should not have done that. I should have just thrown it away. I knew this. But, I convinced myself that if Carol can do it, so can I! Ha! Not good.

In honor of my yogurt-gone-bad experience today, I decided to do a small education on the importance of gut bacteria. Pretty exciting stuff…

Bacteria is good?

A lot of people don’t understand how big of a deal bacteria is to your health. 80% of your immune system resides in your gastrointestinal tract. In fact, you have so much bacteria in your gut that it accounts for 2-3 pounds of your body weight. Most people will have somewhere around 85% good bacteria and 15% bad bacteria.

Usually, the presence of the good bacteria is enough to keep the dirty 15% in check, but sometimes things can get a bit rowdy (i.e. you get sick). When this happens, your doctor might suggest putting you on a antibiotic, like Azithromyocin. One thing to note about these antibiotics – while they may help you feel better by killing the bad bacteria, they might also cause you to lose your healthy bacteria as well. They do not discriminate between “good” and “bad” bacteria. They just wipe it all out.

For this reason a lot of people coming off of antibiotics might experience GI troubles (diarrhea, constipation, bloating). In extreme cases, you can even experience holes in the intestinal wall.

Holes in Your Intestinal Wall

The theory here is that these holes can actually allow undigested food particles into the area surrounding your gut. When this happens, your immune system can react to them. This “reaction” could present as any of the following:

  • Food Sensitivities
  • Food Allergies
  • Digestive Issues
  • Auto-immune disorder
  • Cravings for sugar and carbohydrates
  • Weight gain

Should I avoid Antibiotics from my Doctor?

This doesn’t mean that you should avoid treatment from the doctor, but one thing to consider would be reharvesting your gut bacteria. Probiotics and fermented foods can help you do that. This would be food like yogurt, saurkraut, kombucha, or kefir.

Hidden Sources of Antibiotics

Unfortunately, the greatest threat from antibiotics is not from the prescriptions at the pharmacy, but rather the food that you eat. Did you know that 80% of all antibiotics produced today are actually used on animals in confined animal feeding operations (CAFO’s)? These antibiotics help the animals grow bigger, faster in unsanitary and stressed conditions. Livestock companies don’t worry about killing your good gut bacteria because with these antibiotics they can save time and money. It also keeps their meat tender, marbled and priced affordably. That’s worth some health risks, right?

Sadly, this widespread use of antibiotics in animals has also been linked to the leading cause for the development of new strains of antibiotic-resistant bactera, such as the well known (and hard to treat) MRSA.

In order to avoid consumption of antibiotics through your protein sources, you might consider buying your meat locally at a farmers market. Many times, these farmers have gone out of their way to keep the process healthy. I always recommend asking though, just to make sure. Often times prices at farmers markets are comparable to what you would spend at the store, but they are much much healthier. :)

In conclusion…

Watch what you’re putting into your body. You could be experiencing symptoms and problems related to things you had never even considered.

Consider eating more fermented foods and yogurt to help build up your healthy gut bacteria.

Stay well rested, well nourished, and well hydrated to avoid susceptibility to illness. That way, you’ll be less likely to end up at the doctors office. Prescription antibiotics work, but they’re not something I would take lightly.

Go to the farmers market and help the local economy by buying organic, grass-fed meats. The closest farmer’s market to here would be Columbia, MO and they do have vendors selling locally raised meat.

So, I bet this is more than you ever wanted to know about gut bacteria. Sorry. I just get carried away sometimes. (insert sheepish look here)

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