When it comes to attacking a sickness head on, antibiotics are often the first course of action. And they truly can work wonders when used in the right way. But one unfortunate side effect is that they wipe out the body’s good bacteria along with the bad, making your gut all out of whack. As if it wasn’t hard enough to keep the microbiome happy, right?
Here, integrative health expert and Superwoman Rx author Taz Bhatia, MD—known to many as Dr. Taz—sets the record straight on when an antibiotic is really, truly needed and when a more holistic treatment will do.
But first, Dr. Bhatia shares a pro tip for helping that antibiotic go down a little easier. “In those moments when you truly need an antibiotic, it’s a good idea to take a probiotic with lactobacillus or bifido three to four hours after you take it, to keep a healthy balance in the gut,” she says. If you already take a probiotic, she recommends changing the time you take it to the designated three to four hours after taking your antibiotic and doubling the dose.
If you are prone to getting yeast infections whenever you take an antibiotic (hey, that’s another place where bacteria balance is very important), Dr. Bhatia suggests using a vaginal probiotic suppository. But even following her probiotic advice mentioned above should help keep things down below balanced.
Now that you know what to do to keep your gut balanced when taking an antibiotic, keep reading to find out when you need to actually take one.
Colds and flus
“Colds and flus are viral and they really just go hard on the immune system,” Dr. Bhatia says. “They don’t typically need medications to help them.” The only exception is when the sickness sticks around—for longer than 10 days. That, she says, is a sign it’s become an infection and will need antibiotics.
“There are so many great, holistic ways to treat colds and flus,” Dr. Bhatia says. First, she says go big with vitamin C intake, aiming for five to 10 grams a day in adults. Studies show that vitamin C isn’t able to prevent or treat the common cold for most of the population, but taking it every day can help some people, so there’s no harm in giving it a shot. Upping your vitamin Dintake is another key way to feel better. “Taking at least 2000 IUs of vitamin D through the winter can help and even doubling up on that when you get sick,” Dr. Bhatia says.
She also recommends taking astragalus, which you can buy as a tincture, supplement, or lose herb. “It’s anti-viral and anti-bacterial,” she says. “I’m religious about taking it when I don’t feel good, up to about three or four times a day.”