2020 was a tough year for most of us. For me, it started before Covid restrictions. In January, I lost an old friend to cancer, and in February, my husband and I were hit with what we thought was a new and particularly horrible strain of the flu.
In the past, the flu never took me out for more than 72 hours. This one lingered for almost a month and involved coughing so hard that I couldn’t breathe. Covid tests weren’t available at the time, but we now know that it was likely Covid. I had many of the symptoms and now have the immunity.
Just as I was starting to feel better, an EF-4 tornado hit our neighborhood. We were lucky. Our house was still standing. Just a few houses down, the tornado left nothing but debris. Our yard looked like a war zone, and we were without utilities for almost a week.
With three dogs and a cat, we couldn’t go to a shelter or a hotel, so we visited the donation center for supplies, pulled out the propane heaters, and made due. Unfortunately, that meant having several meals out of a can and several drive through meals.
Between the lingering congestion and my allergies to preservatives, I ended up with a particularly nasty sinus infection. One of the many reasons for my own health journey was being diagnosed with a chronic inflammatory condition (chronic rhinitis) that leads to sinus migraines. On the rare occasion that I eat something I shouldn’t, we usually treat with a round of steroids and move on. This time required a round of broad spectrum antibiotics.
Antibiotics and Your Gut
Antibiotics have been a wonderful medical discovery, providing cures for everything from dental infection and the plague, both of which used to be common killers. Unfortunately, broad spectrum antibiotics don’t distinguish between your good bacteria and your bad bacteria. It can take up to two years to get your gut microbiome back in shape after taking antibiotics.
Before 2020, I knew the basics on gut health. I knew why it was important. I knew how to eat to keep my gut happy and healthy. What I didn’t know was what I could do while taking antibiotics to ensure that I didn’t wind up with gut health issues.
An unhealthy gut can manifest as bloating, depression, brain fog, weight gain, and even insomnia. How do you know you’re having gut health issues? Two things we never like to talk about: poop and gas. Constipation, diarrhea, gas pains, and excessive gas can all be a sign that your gut microbiome isn’t healthy.
My Gut Issues and My Weight
I’ve been on a decade long journey to improve my health. One of the best results was going from a 40″ waist to a 33″ waist. At 5’10”, a 33″ waist looks great on me and is two inches below the maximum healthy waist size for my height. I also went from 227 pounds to 192 pounds. At the start of 2020, I was slowly but steadily working my way to 170 pounds–my weight when I was in the Army and very fit.
Unfortunately, a week of bad eating combined with a broad spectrum antibiotic, took my waist back to 38″ and my weight back to 217. I was bloated all the time and vacillated between diarrhea and constipation. None of my clothes fit. I had no energy, and my seasonal depression was the worst it had been in years. That’s how I started 2021.
I tried several dietary changes. No luck. I tried several supplements. No luck. I was eating a strict diet, but the scales weren’t moving. Finally, I found a combination of probiotics and prebiotics that got my gut back on track. (I’ll tell you more about those in another post!) As my digestion settled back down, the weight came back slowly and steadily. I’m just 2 pounds from where I was, and my waist is back to 33″.
First and foremost, health coaches are real people. We aren’t perfect. We learn from doing and share the experience, strength, and hope we get from our own journeys.
Second, your grandmother was a smart lady. Grandmothers used to ask three key questions:
- Did you eat?
- Did you sleep?
- Did you poop?
Pay attention to all three, because if you aren’t doing all three well, you aren’t healthy.
Last but not least, protect your gut microbiome. I have and am learning a lot about gut health, so drop your questions here, and I’ll answer them for you!