While you’re taking a prescription antibiotic, it’s important to keep your gut flora healthy and active. An easy and effective way to do so is to consume a hearty dose of probiotic foods during your antibiotic regimen. Here are a few simple tips for making and consuming probiotics. These are especially suited for times when you just feel yucky.
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First Things First
Before we begin, here’s my standard disclaimer:
First Line of Defense
At some point, you may find yourself taking a prescription antibiotic regimen to heal from a particular health problem. Before I go to a doctor, I try all the herbal and natural remedies at my disposal. I switch to a cleansing diet when I’m ill and do my best to attend to my own medical needs when possible. This works about 99% of the time for me.
That other 1% of the time will find me at the doctors office. If the situation is acute enough and I feel it’s necessary after receiving medical advice, I will sometimes choose to take a prescription antibiotic.
It’s a fine line between knowing when to stay home and when to take myself to the doctor. I am usually prayerful about the decision because I take my health seriously. What you decide will be up to you.
What Antibiotics Do
It’s rare you’ll find me taking a prescription antibiotic anymore, though I used to get them prescribed to me all the time when I was a kid. In fact, over-prescription of antibiotics is an issue that has been linked to the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria that no longer respond to conventional antibiotic treatments. To learn more about that you can click here to go to the Center for Disease Control. Similarly, the use of antibiotics in meat animals has caused concerns about antibiotic-tainted foods. To read more on that, click here.
However, the intention of a prescribed antibiotic is not evil. Antibiotics kill or stop the growth of bacteria. Many illnesses are caused by “bad” bacteria having a party in your body. Such illnesses are limited to bacterial infections like sinus infections, urinary tract infections, etc. Antibiotics are sometimes even prescribed for maladies not bacterial in origin. For example, antibiotics do absolutely nothing for viruses like the common cold. The intention of an antibiotic is the restore health to the body by killing infectious bacteria.
Possible Side Effects of Antibiotics
There are certain side effects to antibiotics that range in severity from stomach upset to yeast infection. Occasionally, someone will be allergic to a type of antibiotic (penicillin, amoxicillin, and so many others). Extreme cases can result in death, but this is very rare.
For most of us, the side effects of antibiotic use will be limited to our stomachs, or gut. Because antibiotics aren’t discriminating, they end up killing the good bacteria along with the bad. Our guts are full of good bacteria that help keep our entire digestive system regulated. Without these good bacteria, we can indeed suffer from stomach upset, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion and the dreaded yeast infection, to name a few possibilities.
Probiotic Counter Attack
The easiest way to avoid these side effects is to ingest a healthy amount of probiotics during the course of your antibiotic regimen. As your antibiotic kills off one set of bacteria, your probiotics can repopulate your gut where their services are needed to restore and maintain health. Probiotics can help you avoid some of the adverse side effects of your antibiotic, while also aiding the rest of your body to recover quickly.
The probiotic foods we’ll be covering here are also helpful for maintaining gut health even after you’ve recovered from your illness. If you’re striving to eat healthier foods and take better care of yourself, probiotic foods should have a place in your long-term goal planning. If you agree with Hippocrates that all disease begins in the gut, then it must follow that healing can also begin in the gut.
There are a number of probiotic foods you can consume and most of them you can learn to make yourself. Health food stores usually also carry these probiotic foods, too. You also have the option of purchasing high quality probiotics supplement capsules. I feel food is a much better way to consume probiotics in their whole and natural state so that’s what I typically use. However, the last time I was ill enough to take an antibiotic, I ate probiotic foods and took a raw probiotic supplement. I was pulling out every weapon I could find in order to heal quicker.
Fermented Dairy Probiotics
A Note on Raw
Fresh milk, also known as raw milk, and cultured milk products like kefir, yogurt, cultured cream come with their sets of beneficial probiotics. While this is not going to be a lecture on drinking raw milk, I will say that one of its virtues is the presence of beneficial bacteria. Pasteurization is what, in large measure, destroys the bacteria populations in milk with the intent of making it safer to drink. For more information on real, or raw, milk, please click here.
However, you may not feel up to eating something as rich as cheese while you’re ill. Just keep it in mind for when you feel better.
Making Your Own
If you don’t have access to and/or don’t want to use raw milk, you can use any milk to create cultured dairy products. Culturing, or fermenting, these dairy products fills them will probiotics. I’m going to recommend you learn to make these probiotic foods in this post, rather than buy them. Mostly because I don’t want to have to launch into a long explanation of all the things you have to look out for in commercial foods, even “healthy” ones. If you are going to buy these, though, at least check the back for different kinds of sugar and any ingredient that’s three syllables or more in length.
Dairy with the highest probiotic counts:
- The dairy ferment with the consistently highest level of probiotics is kefir. To learn more about kefir, including how to make it, click here.
- The next in line would be yogurt. To learn to make pasteurized yogurt, click here. To learn to make raw yogurt, click here.
- Then, there are other fermented dairy products like cultured cream, simple clabbered milk and others. To learn more about these options, visit Wardee at The Traditional Cooking School where she addresses this topics. You can also find Wardee in this year’s Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle – click here for more information.
I will say that all of these options are simple to make. However, don’t plan to make them all. Remember, you’re not feeling well and you need to keep it simple. Pick one that looks good and try that one for awhile. Once you’re well, experiment with the rest of these and see which ones you really like.
Fermented, Probiotic Rich Veggies
The most well known of the probiotic veggies are two popular fermented foods: sauerkraut and kimchi. Both are typically made with cabbage, though kimchi will include a good deal of spice. Both probiotic foods are typically served along side every day meals in the lands of their nativity (Germany and Korea). As food fermented by lactic acid, they are both high in vitamin C (plus others) and are teeming with probiotics.
Other vegetables and even fruits can be fermented to provide probiotics for your dining pleasure, as well as your recovery. You will discover that pretty much every land has a traditional, fermented food that you might enjoy. Every tried Poi in Hawaii? What about Miso from Japan?
Here are some probiotic, fermented veggies recipes for you to try:
Three Lactofermented Pickles Recipes from Homestead Honey
Kimchi from Attainable Sustainable
Sauerkraut from Homestead Honey
Just a note: when you ferment foods, it’s important to keep them submerged in the liquid that covers them. You can purchase fermentation weights that work really well. BUT, if you’re reading this while you’re sick and don’t want to have to worry about one more thing, Susan from Learning and Yearning has a bunch of ideas on what you can use for a fermentation weight. Best part is, these ideas are items you probably have in your kitchen drawers right now. Read that article here.
Drink Your Probiotics
Kvass is a very simple probiotic drink to make yourself. Traditionally, kvass comes from Eastern Europe (I first tasted it when I lived in Russia). Time was, kvass was fermented on grains like barley. After time, people started using root vegetables like beets and carrots. Kvass cultured in these veggies comes out full of flavor and slightly sour. These days you’ll find many people fermenting kvass on a selection of fruits. Fruit kvass is naturally slightly sweet and bubbly. This is usually a good sell with children, if you have some that don’t want to eat kimchi or drink kefir. In fact, kvass is so delightful, you may find yourself inventing reasons to make it even when you’re better. And trust me, you WILL get better.
Here’s a recipe for kvass – click here.
Also, here’s a recipe for cultured grape jello, if the kvass just won’t jive for your kids.
Another probiotic drink is kombucha. Kombucha is a drink fermented on black tea using something called a scoby. A scoby is a collection of beneficial bacteria and yeasts all working together. Also known as a mother culture, a scoby isn’t pretty (kefir grains are a soby and they kind of look like brains). However, the probiotics created in this process makes kombucha very appealing to some people.
My religion precludes the consumption of tea plant so I’ve never tasted this one myself. (Though the tea is probably entirely consumed by the scoby and I know several faithful members of my church who do drink kombucha. To each his own.) However, I know several people who have popular komcucha recipes, so here you go:
Dandelion and Fennel Kombucha by Grow, Forage, Cook, Ferment
Continuous Kombucha Brew by Wellness Mama
Ginger Kombucha by The Kitchn
Random Probiotic Sources
Tempeh, microalgae, natto, curtido, and other traditionally fermented, probiotic-rich foods are all worthy of your further study. It should be pointed out, too, that kefir can be cultured on milk or water. For a great water kefir soda recipe, click here.
For now, just focus on one or two of the probiotic foods that are most familiar to you. Remember to try and pick one that you will actually enjoy eating.
My last illness was centered around my jaw and involved acute pain that didn’t allow me to open my mouth or chew. Though I love sauerkraut, for that illness I was guzzling yogurt and milk kefir smoothies to keep up on my probiotics.
How Much Probiotic to Take While on Antibiotics
The first thing I’m going to say is, consult your health care professional. You may need to find an holistic practitioner to find someone who would understand the idea of medicating with food, FYI.
And the second thing I’m going to say is that there hasn’t been a lot of medical research into probiotics yet. So, do your own homework, read a lot about them in books like Nourishing Traditions and make a prayerful decision.
Having said all that, I will say that I usually go by my gut. Literally. My body will tell me when I’ve had enough probiotic foods because I just don’t want to eat them anymore that day. Which is another reason to consume probiotic foods, as opposed to supplements. I hear my body better when we’re speaking the common language of food. Pills can get a little vague.
If you’re completely new to fermented, probiotic foods then my advice is to take it easy. Cut out refined sugar and processed grains while you’re ill. Consume bone broths several times a day. Slowly introduce one fermented food at a time and listen to what your body says.
The most common side effects of too many probiotics and/or a gut newly assimilating to fermented foods are stomach upset, bloating and gas. If you’re just new to the consumption of probiotic foods, give your body time to adjust as you consume them in moderate amounts. If you think you may have overdone it a bit on your probiotics, back off of them and increase your fluids.
Remember, too much of a good thing is still too much. And always remember to consult your doctor!