The weird way antibiotics may affect your nutrition

Posted at 5:04 PM, May 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-10 17:04:25-04

Eating whole grains has many health benefits but if you’ve recently taken antibiotics, you may not be getting all the nutrients they provide.

Whole grains contain antioxidant-rich compounds called lignans. When we eat grains, our intestinal bacteria breaks down lignans into a chemical structure called enterolignans. 

A new study found a significant association between lower enterolignan concentrations in the blood and antibiotic use, especially for females.

Researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark examined data including blood samples from over 2,200 individuals who were diagnosed with cancer between 1996 and 2009.

They discovered women who had used antibiotics within 3 months had enterolignan concentrations up to 40% lower than women who had not used the medication. Men had concentrations up to 12% lower.

Unnecessary use of antibiotics is strongly discouraged not just because it may have detrimental effects on the health of your gut, but also because we’re facing an antibiotic resistance crisis due to overuse. 

With this in mind, here are my prescriptions:

  • Don’t bug or demand your doctor for antibiotics when you might not need one. They don’t work for viral infections like the flu, bronchitis or the common cold.
  • Don’t save antibiotics to reuse later on. Different types of bacterial infections need different antibiotics.
  • Always finish your prescription unless told by your doctor to stop.  Otherwise there’s a greater chance the bacteria could become resistant to future treatments.
  • Stay up to date with vaccines and protect yourself from picking up illnesses by washing your hand frequently with soap and water.

Whole grains are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and plant compounds. Science has linked whole grains to lower risks for diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers like colon cancer. 

This new study also found after taking antibiotics, enterolignan levels remained notably lower for both men and women even up to a year later. So be sure to use antibiotics the right way and only when you need to.  Otherwise it not only increases your risk of getting an antibiotic-resistant infection later on, but lowers the benefits your body receives from eating healthy whole-grains too.