“Hey doc, I’ve got my annual sinus infection. Can you just call in an antibiotic? I get this every year at this time and the antibiotic knocks it out.” I face such phone calls frequently, and it’s tempting to comply and avoid conflict. Among many reasons that is not good medical practice is the effect of antibiotics on gut bacteria. Overuse of antimicrobials is one of the main reasons for a general degradation of the microbiome. While they can be lifesaving in cases of pneumonia and other serious infections, antibiotics are not needed in 90% of cases of “sinusitis” or “bronchitis”. Learn to Image-4use a neti-pot to flush your sinuses or take an expectorant and inhale steam to enhance clearance of mucous from bronchial tubes.

What else adversely effects gut flora?
– A typical American processed food diet of high carb, high trans and omega 6 fat, mysterious toxic additives and missing soluble fiber lowers good bacteria and causes bad bugs to thrive.

Image-5– Artificial sweeteners including aspartame, saccharin and Sucralose have been implicated in some very good studies (I used to be skeptical of the bandwagon criticism of artificial sweeteners by the alternative crowd but now have pretty much eliminated them from my diet)

– Osmotic laxatives like polyethylene glycol (miralax) can be very damaging to gut bacteria. One review suggested that it’s like cleaning the gut with antibacterial soap. I only use it now for colonoscopy prep but will be looking for alternatives and in the meantime will make sure probiotic replacement occurs.

Image-2 Chronic stress adversely effects every element of our health so it should be no surprise that it damages gut flora. The science is elegant but will not go into detail here. Briefly some of the mechanisms are related to increased cortisol levels and inflammatory cytokines, effects on gut neurotransmitters and decreased small bowel transit speed.

Next post: How to preserve and enhance microbiota!