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Tips for Supporting Your Gut When Taking Medications

There are situations when taking medications is necessary.

Unfortunately, medications like opioids, antibiotics and PPIs/acid blockers are linked to causing changes in digestion, bowel motility and negatively impacting the gut microbiome. But they can also be beneficial when used appropriately.

So what can you do to support your gut during these times and reduce the risk of developing gut problems?

Avoid taking them for longer than needed

Opioids after surgery or in situations where standard pain relief medication isn’t helping is necessary for many people. But it’s important to have an exit plan, not only to avoid addiction, but also to reduce the impact opioids have on the gut.

PPIs/acid blockers are only designed for short-term use, yet people are often left on them for long periods of time, which puts you at risk of developing SIBO. PPIs/acid blockers also fail to address the underlying cause of reflux, which usually results in symptoms returning when the medication is stopped.

Generally, antibiotics are prescribed for an appropriate time frame, but they are commonly over prescribed. If you have a raging infection, you need antibiotics. But, long courses for issues like acne are problematic in my opinion. We are in an age of antibiotic resistance, which is a result of overprescribing antibiotics or situations that probably didn’t require an antibiotic. I talk to many people who are given course after course for chronic health problems like sinusitis, ear infections and UTIs, but the antibiotic failed to treat the problem. In most cases it’s because the condition has either been misdiagnosed or it’s a viral problem, not a bacterial problem. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re unsure if you actually have a bacterial infection, you can request further testing before taking the antibiotic i.e. urine analysis and nose/throat swab.

Look out for signs of infection, like having a fever, can help to determine if an antibiotic is necessary.

Manage constipation

Constipation is a side effect of many different medications, including opioids, PPIs/acid blockers and antibiotics. If you find you get constipated on these medications, managing this is really important to prevent developing long-term gut problems. One of the leading causes of developing SIBO and gut microbiome disruption is a prolonged period of constipation caused by medications. You can ask for a laxative to be prescribed, or try magnesium citrate and buffered vitamin C to keep things moving.

Try to keep your diet as healthy as possible

When feeling unwell, it can be really difficult to care about your diet. You might find yourself reaching for quick options and comfort foods more than vegetables and fruits. Doing something simple like making a nutrient packed smoothie everyday that is high in protein and fiber, can help to support your overall health and gut microbiome while you recover. For anyone supporting a loved one while they are unwell, providing healthy meals that can be microwaved is a great way to help out.

Avoid alcohol

While I don’t believe every person needs to be alcohol free to have a healthy gut, if you’re taking medications that can put strain on your gut, and you’re feeling unwell, alcohol isn’t going to help the situation. Alcohol can add additional strain on your gut microbiome and slow down the healing process.

Use probiotics and prebiotics

Taking a good quality probiotic and prebiotic when taking medications like PPIs, opioids and antibiotics can help to support your gut microbiome and reduce the gut-related side effects of these medications.

This is not medical advice, and isn’t intended to replace any advice you have received from your doctor. I’m sharing this with you, because I think many people are becoming aware of the impact some medications can have on their gut, and this leads to them either refusing to take medication when it’s needed, or feeling like their gut health is doomed and there’s nothing they can do.

If you feel like your gut has been messed up by medications you needed to take, I'd love to chat with you about what we can do to restore your gut health. Book a free introductory consultation here.

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