When Antibiotics Are a Good Thing

We all know that antibiotics can save lives and that there are certain situations where they are truly helpful. We also know that overuse of antibiotics has encouraged the development of “super bugs” and can mess up our very important body flora. For someone who’s been on the GAPS diet for several months trying to build up good gut flora, antibiotics can be seen as a huge setback. That’s certainly how I saw it when my four-year-old son got strep throat.

It completely caught me off guard. I know natural remedies for so many ailments, but strep was one I had not yet researched. And he was doing so poorly, I was afraid he’d soon be in the hospital if he didn’t start getting better. That’s why I took him to his pediatrician, who diagnosed the strep. At this point he was eating almost nothing because it hurt too much. He was lethargic, which to me is a red flag. Plus, I knew strep could lead to other, more serious, illnesses. I filled the prescription for amoxicillin immediately.

Before the doctor appointment, I told myself I would take him to a naturopath for a second opinion if he was prescribed antibiotics. But that was when I thought he had bronchitis. For some reason, strep really scared me. But after I got him on the antibiotics, I started to second guess myself. Maybe I should have taken him to an ND after all. I read some info in a book that says strep very rarely causes complications and those complications are usually only seen in malnourished children. My child is very well nourished, so supposedly he wasn’t at risk. I searched online for natural strep remedies and thought to myself that these would have been nice if I had the foresight to use them before his condition became so bad. In the end, I decided I did not know enough about strep or treating strep to override a doctor’s advice.

One of the downsides of using antibiotics is that it doesn’t allow the body to make its own antibodies against strep. Which means the next time he is exposed to strep, he can get it again. In fact, a person that uses antibiotics for strep is more likely to get it again in the next year–especially if the course of antibiotics wasn’t finished. So now that we had started, I felt that it was important to finish all TEN DAYS of antibiotics. Let me tell you, it was really annoying to be administering antibiotics to him days after all his symptoms subsided. All the time thinking of how I was killing off good bacteria in his body.

But, I also reminded myself that we were killing off the bad bacteria as well. At least some of it. Amoxicillin is not broad spectrum and doesn’t kill all bacteria. So I comforted myself thinking that not all his good bacteria would be killed, and that perhaps some other bad bacteria would be killed as well. In fact, we concluded that this may be our chance to give him a bit of a “clean slate” and fill in the gaps with lots of probiotics.

All throughout his illness, the only drink he wanted was kombucha, so that’s what he got. Kombucha is a probiotic drink. I also gave him a probiotic supplement every morning, as he took the antibiotics at night. After the antibiotics were done, I continued with probiotics, giving them twice a day, he continued with drinking a fair amount of kombucha, eating yogurt, and I got kefir in him as soon as I could obtain some kefir grains. Kefir is praised for having a very wide array of beneficial bacteria and yeasts in it.

Ginger-flavored rooibos kombucha.

Kombucha has yeast in it, too, including S. boulardii, which you’ve probably heard of if you are on GAPS. It’s one of the few supplements recommended on the diet, if you feel like you need extra help. I actually learned about kombucha containing S. boulardii when my little boy at the end of his antibiotics course and had been drinking kombucha all day long for several days. I was very excited about this because he has had a bowel issue even after being on GAPS for several months and S. boulardii supplements help some people with their bowels. I had been meaning to try the supplement for him all this time. Well, since S. boulardii is a yeast, drinking lots of kombucha during his course of antibiotics seems to have allowed this yeast to colonize in his bowels. Sometime during his antibiotic treatment, his bowel movements went from smelly, hard-to-wipe paste, to practically odorless, “clean” poops. He started going more regularly, too. This is such a transformation in his bowels, I can hardly believe it. Definitely a good thing.

I was really paranoid about pathogenic yeast overgrowth during the antibiotic period and the few weeks following, so I restricted his intake of fruit and sweets, and was really strict about giving him only GAPS foods. And of course kept up on the probiotics. It seems to have worked really well, with a benefit that I could not have anticipated!


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