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Are your Non-Antibiotic Medicines Disrupting your Microbiome?

Are your Non-Antibiotic Medicines Disrupting your Microbiome?

Are Your Non-Antibiotic Medicines Disrupting Your Microbiome?

It’s fairly well-known that taking antibiotics can wipe out microbiome colonies and contribute to opportunistic strains like C. diff taking hold. But did you know that your headache and heartburn meds or your daily dose of Claritin can have the same effect?

In a study published in the international science journal Nature, researchers looked at the impact of 835 non-antibiotic drugs on human gut bacteria. What they found was shocking: 24 percent of the drugs tested had a significant effect on the gut microbiome, with 40 of them affecting 10 strains or more.

These drugs ran the gamut of target treatments and included cancer therapies, anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen, antidiabetes, antipsychotics, antihypertensives, antiarrhythmics, anticoagulants and hormones or hormone modulators.

Interestingly, the researchers noted that it’s not necessarily always a bad thing that these drugs have the power to alter the microbiome. In some cases, an altered microbiome could be why we experience certain side effects, but in other cases, the drugs may work precisely because they change the microbiome. Metformin, for example, increases beneficial strains while hampering pathogenic ones.

However, the researchers found that the strains most likely to be affected by the meds included Roseburia intestinalis, Eubacterium rectale, and Bacteroides vulgatus, three strains with important - and overwhelmingly beneficial - roles in our guts.

Most concerning, the study also found that use of these non-antibiotic drugs increase antibiotic resistance, meaning your Tylenol could have an impact on how your body responds in the future to potentially life-saving antibiotics. Armed with this knowledge, we’d say it looks like it’s in your best interest to reduce the overall amount of drugs you’re taking.

If you do need to take over-the-counter or prescription drugs, here are some tips on how to buffer their harmful effects:

    • Explore natural antibiotic herbs and foods: For example, garlic, ginger and oregano all have naturally antibiotic properties with none of the nasty side effects. That said, when dealing with any type of “anti” protocol, it’s always a good idea to work with a functional medicine doctor who can help formulate the proper treatment plan.
    • Consider CBD as an alternative to pain medications: Cannabidiol (CBD) is having a moment right now -- and for good reason. Studies have shown CBD to be effective in chronic pain relief by suppressing inflammatory pathways without causing the “high” typically associated with cannabis.  
    • Take a daily pre- and probiotic: Adding a supplement that includes both bacterial and fungal strains, including S. boulardii, plus a prebiotic with inulin to support anti-inflammatory strains such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, can help to counteract the negative effects of the drugs. Just be sure to take them at least four hours apart from those other meds.    
  • Eat a diet rich in fermented foods: Aim to incorporate at least one naturally probiotic food each day. Some options include kimchi, kombucha, plain yogurt, sauerkraut and beet kvass.  
  • Support liver detoxification with organic veggies: Every drug you ingest needs to be metabolized and cleared through the liver, so supporting it with plenty of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and kale are good options!) helps to keep all systems firing.
  • Reduce stress through daily movement and techniques like meditation: Exercise alone can alter your microbiome in meaningful ways, as can a heavy stress load. The mind-body connection is incredibly powerful, so finding ways to relax and reset can have huge implications for your gut health.
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