Taking antibiotics can successfully protect you against bacterial infections — and it’s often an important part of maintaining your health. But where regular consumption of antibiotics was once thought sufficient to protect you, new research suggests that unhealthy eating habits can reduce the efficacy of antibiotics. Fortunately, the research also reveals that eating soluble fiber as part of a balanced diet helps support your body’s absorption of antibiotics.
Diving Into the Research
A key reason your body may not be absorbing antibiotics properly is antimicrobial resistance (AMR). This occurs when your system’s bacteria, viruses, and fungi are able to overcome the drugs that are designed to destroy them. The CDC reports that more than 2.8 million AMR infections happen in the US annually.
Researchers asked 290 healthy adults (ages 18 to 66) to complete food questionnaires about their regular diet. Using blood, urine, and stool samples, they also measured each participant’s gut microbiome — the collection of all bacteria, viruses, fungi, and genes in the body.
The authors found that a diet high in soluble fiber and low in protein was associated with decreased levels of antimicrobial resistance genes in the gut microbes.
Regular consumption of soluble fiber was the focus of these findings, rather than protein. That’s because this type of fiber dissolves in water and helps to increase the number of healthy bacteria in the gut.
In a statement, lead author and research molecular biologist Danielle Lemay put these findings into perspective.
“The results lead directly to the idea that modifying the diet has the potential to be a new weapon in the fight against antimicrobial resistance,” she explains. “This suggests that we may want to eat from diverse sources of foods that tend to be higher in soluble fiber for maximum benefit.”
What This Means for You
Upping your daily intake of soluble fiber is an ideal way to boost your gut health, which can ultimately help you avoid AMR. The USDA recommends consuming 28 grams of dietary fiber each day for a 2,000 calorie daily diet.
Great sources of soluble fiber include oats, legumes, apples, carrots, and citrus. Whether you’re making oatmeal for breakfast or having lentils for lunch or dinner, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this type of fiber.
In addition to making a diet tweak, be sure to speak with your doctor for more information on AMR and to ensure that your antibiotics are as effective as possible.