Are antibiotics making you fat?

Before you laugh, this is a serious question.

Why?

Because gaining too much weight is about far more than just eating more than you burn off. The old ‘calories in versus calories burned’ argument is waaaaay to simplistic, and leaves peeps feeling that if only they could just eat less, they’d be fine. Which, as we know, is not necessarily the answer.

So, antibiotics and fat.

Think about it: farmers use antibiotics on cattle and pigs and other animals to prevent diseases and to fatten them up.

Yep, ask a farmer how to fatten up an animal and they’ll tell you that one of the best ways is to just give them a long term low dose of antibiotics. Interesting huh?

So let’s turn this to you.

You might have had antibiotics for one or two perfectly legitimate illnesses in the past few years. After all, we live in a world where antibiotics are extremely useful (and I am not the kind of person who would tell you to not take them if you need them) But, chances are you weren’t given the chance to rebuild the good bacteria in your gut afterwards. Which could well mean that the long term effect of those antibiotics is the same as the antibiotics that farmers give to their animals.

They might be making you fat(ter).

If you ask your doctor, they’d probably say that there isn’t a link. And maybe there isn’t (yet) a scientifically proven case of cause and effect between antibiotics and piling on the pounds, but it seems to me that if you’ve had to take a few courses of antibiotics for whatever reason AND you are seriously struggling with your weight even though you are doing your very best in terms of exercise and good foods, the antibiotics might have something to do with it.

I can’t prove this, and I’m not trying to scare you.

If there is a link (and, like I said, farmers know all about how to make an animal fat) then I’d say it must be pretty reassuring to think that perhaps part of the answer to your unexplainable, unsolvable weight problems might be as simple as eating foods which are full of the good bacteria.

Fermented foods such as:

  • natural yogurt
  • miso
  • kefir
  • sauerkraut

are great sources of the kind of bacteria you want in your gut. And if you’ve been really hit by a big load of antibiotics, you might want to consider taking a course of supplemental acidophilus to really boost the good bacteria in your gut.

Like I said, there are no quick fixes to sorting out a weight problem in the long term (sorry to break it to you if you were hoping just to cut your calories) but this is one part of the puzzle which is definitely worth thinking about.

If this sounds like you, working with me is the perfect way to address weight loss, and post-antibiotic strategies. Check out how I can help.

I’m also really keen that you don’t just base your happiness on how much you weigh.

11 thoughts on “Are antibiotics making you fat?

  1. G’Morning, Claire!
    Oh, yes! Naturally fermented foods – not accelerated or preservative-laced, not short-cutted with vinegar! …Requires only a touch of patience.
    Here’s an easy road-map (really, all you need are the guidelines and proportions, no need to stress about a “recipe”!) for making your own *real old-fashioned sauerkraut* (so much tastier than vinegar-based commercial stuff!): http://inspirationsandexplorations.com/2011/05/09/how-to-make-sauerkraut-the-old-fashioned-way-with-fermentation/

    A couple of tips I learned: let your water sit for 24 hours to dissipate the chlorine – which works against fermentation. And use non-iodized salt (Kosher, sea salt – also, use less if it’s fine grained), for the same reason – iodine is good for your thyroid, but is also an anti-bacterial!

    Keep the cabbage “pressed” so it doesn’t poke above the juices, and covered so that insects don’t get to it.

    Start with a small batch! No need to buy multiple heads of cabbage – just one small one, to start. Yumm!

      • A nice SMALL cabbage would even be a good start. They shred up into a surprisingly large pile! A “big” head may surprise you with the number of jars you’d need…
        IFIRC – when my great-uncles (bachelor farmers πŸ˜‰ ) made it, they kept the jars in the root cellar, too – no need to seriously refrigerate it. I don’t remember if they did a hot-water-bath sealing on them, or just screw on-lids, though. Probably hot-wqter…

      • A nice SMALL cabbage would even be a good start. They shred up into a surprisingly large pile! A “big” head may surprise you with the number of jars you’d need…
        IFIRC – when my great-uncles (bachelor farmers πŸ˜‰ ) made ‘kraut, they kept the finished jars in the root cellar, too – cooler there, but no need to seriously refrigerate it. I don’t remember if they did a hot-water-bath sealing on them, or just screw on-lids, though. Probably hot-wqter…

  2. Another pro-active thought on Antibiotics ~

    Before you fill a ‘scrip for ABs, double check with the prescriber – if they think what’s making you sick is a VIRUS, don’t even accept the ‘scrip! An antibiotic (anti-bacterial) is NOT an anti-viral.

    (Okay, Adamant Hat off, now…)

    • Agree with you on this one – antibiotics have a really important role to play, but absolutely no point taking them if they don’t actually have a chance of working in the first place!

  3. It’s a question that I often think about with some of my clients but don’t know enough about to prove it. The fight between healthy eating and the side effects of medication can be demoralising for people who are trying really hard to lose weight.

    • Hey Nigel – you make a great point (and is one of the reasons it took me 6 months to post this up after writing it) about not knowing enough to prove it. I recently read a report on a possible link but the jury is still well out on it. I just think it’s very telling that antibiotics are often given to livestock to fatten them up and yet little consideration is given to the possibility in humans. For sure, there will be plenty of people who won’t be affected by them at all, but for someone who has really be struggling with weight loss AND has a history of prolonged antibiotic use, it is something worth considering. The simple fact is that we have more bacteria in our gut than we do cells in our bodies, and getting a good balance of the bacteria is often a good starting point, and I have a theory that getting the bacteria balance right will also help prevent the old yo-yo dieting which foxes a lot of people.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment – I really appreciate your thoughts!

  4. Just saw (in my mind’s eye) this “D’oh!” connection, too: If the antibiotics are in the animal’s feed to fatten them up, why wouldn’t any residual effects pass on to US, who eat the animals??

    That can be a reason to *eat no meat* at all; I prefer to shop for “no antibiotics” meat…

    • Great point Karen – it’s also one of the suspected reasons for antibiotics being less effective nowadays and the increase of ‘super bugs’. Def best to choose, where possible, meat which won’t have antibiotics in it. Organic or wild caught meat would be what I would choose, if I ate meat for sure!

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