Antibiotics are a very important part of current medical treatment, but science is discovering the overuse can have unintended consequences that can impact gut health and trigger weight gain in some people.
Antibiotics have saved millions of lives by reducing or removing pathogenic bacteria. However, we are now learning that overuse of antibiotics can have the unintended consequence of also reducing or removing resident bacteria, important for gut health, metabolic functioning and the way we metabolize our food. This can lead to resistant weight gain, – meaning you just keep gaining weight.
35 percent of people give up on their #weightlossgoal before the month ends – not due to a lack of time or willpower – they are weight loss resistant. With the right help they can beat it.Tweet
Antibiotic effects on the gut microbiome and resistant fat
Antibiotics come in many different forms, some targeting a wide range of bacteria (broad-spectrum), while others targeting only a few types of bacteria (narrow-spectrum). Broad-spectrum antibiotics are the most commonly prescribed and their use has been observed to have several impacts on gut health, and resistant fat including:
- reducing microbial diversity in the gut1–5 involved in glucose metabolism
- reducing protective species such as Bifidobacterium spp.1,2,6 triggering inflammatory cell release associated with fat cell production.
- promoting the colonisation of opportunistic pathogens such as Clostridium difficile that can cause antibiotic-associated diarrhea7–9
In infants and young children, antibiotic use can be linked to an increased risk of asthma and weight gain1,10.
In a healthy gut microbiome, the resident microorganisms help protect against invasion by opportunistic pathogens through a process called colonisation resistance. This involves different methods to inhibit pathogens, such as:
- producing anti-microbial compounds
- outcompeting pathogens for space in the gut
- maintaining the mucus layer so pathogens cannot reach intestinal cells
- training the immune system to respond to pathogens11,12
When the resident gut microorganisms are reduced during antibiotic use, these protective functions may stop occurring and provide an opportunity for pathogenic bacteria to colonise which triggers a cascade of metabolic problems linked to weight gain.
Recovery of the gut microbiome
After an antibiotic course, recovery of the gut microbiome can take some time 2,3,13–16. However, these studies have also shown that even after two to four years, some bacterial groups do not recover completely and antibacterial resistance genes can also persist at increased levels for at least one to two years following antibiotic use13,14,16,17 creating metabolic changes that cause weight gain. Therefore, even a short course of antibiotics can have long-term effects on the gut microbiome and make maintaining a healthy body weight challenging.
Improving gut health after antibiotics to fix your metabolism
A good general strategy to improve gut health is to make sure you feed your gut microbiome foods that will allow your beneficial resident microbiota to grow back. This means eating a wide variety of foods that are high in fibre and plant polyphenols such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains22.
If you have gained weight after taking antibiotics or struggle to #loseweight you need a targeted approach to accelerate weight lossTweet
Most people who struggle relentlessly with their weight are dealing with a systemic imbalance that is physiologically blocking weight loss. This is known as weight loss resistance, which urges your body to hang on to extra weight – no matter what diet or exercise measures you take. We know this situation is extremely frustrating, and while there is good reason for it, there are also effective solutions.
- Katri Korpela, Anne Salonen, Lauri J. Virta, Riina A. Kekkonen, Kristoffer Forslund, Peer Bork & Willem M. de Vos Intestinal microbiome is related to lifetime antibiotic use in Finnish pre-school children Nature Communications volume 7, Article number: 10410 (2016)
- Mamun-Ur Rashid, Egijia Zaura, Mark J. Buijs, Bart J. F. Keijser, Wim ard, Carl Erik Nord, Andrej Weintraub Determining the Long-term Effect of Antibiotic Administration on the Human Normal Intestinal Microbiota Using Culture and Pyrosequencing Methods Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 60, Issue suppl_2, 15 May 2015, Pages S77–S84, https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/civ137
- Egija Zaura, Bernd W. Brandt, M. Joost Teixeira de Mattos, Mark J. Buijs, Martien P. M. Caspers, Mamun-Ur Rashid, Andrej Weintraub, Carl Erik Nord, Ann Savell, Yanmin Hu, Antony R. Coates, Mike Hubank, David A. Spratt, Michael Wilson, Bart J. F. Keijser, Wim Crielaard Same Exposure but Two Radically Different Responses to Antibiotics: Resilience of the Salivary Microbiome versus Long-Term Microbial Shifts in Feces Amarican Society for Microbiology 10th November, 2015 DOI: 10.1128/mBio.01693-15