The effect of antibiotics on weight gain

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.

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 loss

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.

I became ill with a chest infection on my holiday and needed antibiotics. They did their job which was great. However, I gained 20kg in 12 months and couldn’t get it off. It was frightening. Working with Narelle was the only way I could get back on track again. I’m back to my 72kg, healthy and happy.

Marina Stogianis – Melbourne

References

  1. 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)
  2. 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
  3. 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

Is Bloating A Hidden Cause of Weight Gain?

Many women link digestive bloating to their hormonal cycle and come to accept it as being ‘normal for them’. However, did you know that feeling bloated can be a key clue to why you are struggling to maintain a healthy body weight?

Your bowel contains both good and bad bacteria, and research shows that the good kind plays a crucial role in your overall health by reducing inflammation and keeping your weight in check. For starters, this means bloating can lead to higher levels of inflammation which in turn can cause your body to store more fat.

However, this aside, the second problem occurs when the amount of bacteria increases, or when the type of bacteria gets thrown off-balance. (For optimal health, it’s best to think of it like a seesaw – best when the good and bad is totally balanced.) When that happens, what’s known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can occur, and it can cause weight gain in two ways.

Small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO) is linked to weight gain and resistant weight loss. You can beat weight gain with the right support.

SIBO & Weight Gain

First of all, the bacteria could produce methane gas, which “slows down the overall function of the small intestine, allowing the intestinal villi – small, finger-like projections in the lining of your intestine – to absorb more calories per bite.  In other words, the exact opposite of what you want to happen.

Second, SIBO can slow down metabolism and affect your insulin and leptin resistance, both of which help regulate hunger and satiety. As a result, you’re likely to crave carbs and probably won’t feel full after eating, even if it’s a fully satisfying meal.

How To Get Relief

When someone experiences SIBO, it’s generally presumed the problem is related to candida or can be fixed with a general probiotic. However, in a small percentage of women, other factors come into play and these are not tested for in routine pathology testing. This means the problem is never treated and women often resort to giving up on having a healthy body weight or taking laxative to ‘get them through’.

What’s important to remember, is the cause of SIBO is complex and won’t go away with just probiotics. Effective relief is achieved once you get to the hidden cause.

What’s important to remember, is the cause of SIBO is complex and won’t go away with just probiotics. Effective relief is achieved once you get to the hidden cause. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Thyroid problems
  • Poor gall bladder function
  • Food sensitivities.
  • Digestive dysbiosis caused by bacteria or parasites
  • Stealth pathogens or chronic infections
  • Stress hormone over or under production

What’s interesting is all of the above factors are also linked to weight gain, bloating and fluid retention, which means you may experience rapid weight gain or find it extremely difficult to lose weight.

If this is happening to you or someone you know, it’s important to get to the cause and not just ignore it. Leaving it unchecked will lead to more weight gain and potentially increase the risk of other complex health concerns.