We are up to the final episode in our Immunity Series.

In today’s episode, we are going to be covering what can be a controversial topic. The use of antibiotics and how you can avoid unnecessary antibiotics in your kids this winter.

I see so many kids that are stuck on an antibiotic cycle. This week I want to talk about how we can help them get off of this cycle and reduce their need for antibiotics.

I’ll also be covering how and why we need to support our kids to recover from antibiotics. When and if they do need to take them, I delve deeper into these practical tips:

  • Making sure that antibiotics are necessary for that particular infection
  • Restoring the good bacteria through probiotics, especially after antibiotic use
  • Powering up those immune cells through vitamin C and zinc

Episode Links:


Hello, hello! Welcome back to the podcast.

Jessica Donovan here! I’m honoured that you are listening in to the podcast today. No matter what you are doing and where you are based, I just want to say a big thank you. For tuning in and spending this time with me. 

Today, we are going to be covering what’s a fairly controversial topic. That is antibiotics and how to avoid unnecessary antibiotics in your kids this winter. I want to talk a bit about the antibiotic cycle. This is something that I see in my naturopathic work a lot. The kids are kind of stuck on this antibiotic cycle and how we can help them get off of this cycle. Reduce their need, and they use the antibiotics when they are not necessary. Also, I want to talk a little bit about how and why we need to support our kids to recover from antibiotics. When and if they do need to take them. So we’re going to be diving into all things antibiotics. This is the final episode in our immunity series.

I hope you have been enjoying these topics on kids’ immunity that I’ve been covering over the past few weeks. If you haven’t listened in, you can go back and listen to the previous three episodes. We started by talking about really understanding and supporting your kids’ immune systems. Then we moved into foods to boost immunity, which had some really great practical tips contained in that episode. And last week, we delved into recurrent infections. Particularly ear infections, croup and tonsillitis. Why kids tend to get these infections over and over again. What are some of those underlying things we need to be considering when kids are getting recurrent infections. So, you can go back and listen to any of those that you missed.

Before we get into today’s episode, I just want to mention that I have a free masterclass coming up. Now, this is really tying everything together when it comes to kids’ immunity. I do this masterclass every year around the same time and it’s always really popular. So I would like to invite you to come along. It’s totally free and we are having three live versions of this masterclass. They are happening on Tuesday, the 15th of June, Wednesday, the 16th of June, and Thursday, the 17th of June. You have three different days, I’m doing a morning, evening and a lunchtime. So that we can try and get as many of you live as possible because it is just such a better experience when you’re live on the masterclass.

If you’re anything like me, you register for masterclasses and then if you don’t show up live. You’re much less likely to tune in and I really want you to tune in. Because I’m going to be sharing three simple ways to naturally boost your kids immunity to avoid a winter full of sickness. These are my strategies and tips that I use with my own family and that I use with my naturopathic clients. So this really is the next best thing to go into a one-on-one appointment with a naturopath. We’re going to be delving into how to use food, nutrition, herbal medicine, to boost your family’s immune system. We’ll be talking about some lifestyle tweaks. How certain things within your home environment can be impacting your child’s immune system.

This is more than just a one-off masterclass. We really like to make these masterclasses experiences. So when you register, you will be invited to our free pop-up Facebook group. We’ve got prizes, competitions and bonus trainings all happening in there. I am going to pop the link in the show notes for you to be able to come and register for this masterclass. If you head on over to naturalsuperkids.com, our website, there’ll be a banner on there where you can register. So I hope to see you there. That’s really going to tie everything that we’ve been talking about on the podcast together. Give you some really practical, actionable tips that you can start to implement straightaway so that you can have a healthier winter for your family this year.

Okay, let’s get stuck into the antibiotic topic that we are covering today. Let me just start by saying I am not anti-antibiotics. There is no doubt that antibiotics save lives. You know, back in the 1900s, the top three killers were infectious diseases. Nowadays, it is relatively rare for a child to die from common infectious diseases. I for one, as a parent, feel really reassured that if my child does contract a nasty infection, that I have antibiotics. You know, availability to antibiotics to help save their lives. So the introduction of antibiotics has had both positive and negative effects on children’s health.

Of course, we can be really grateful that we have easy access to antibiotics if and when we need them. But I want to also highlight some of the negative effects. One of those is that our kids are more likely to experience chronic conditions, including asthma. Eczema and allergies, with an overuse of antibiotics, particularly in very early life. We also know that antibiotics are significantly overused. There are 30 million scripts for antibiotics written in Australia every year. Almost half of Australians are given at least one course of antibiotics per year. This contributes to antibiotic resistance, which is described as one of the greatest threats to public health in Australia. There are also so many cases where antibiotics are not warranted.

Scripts are written for infections that are viral, or not clearly a bacterial infection. So for example, the majority of ear infections are viral in nature. But many doctors will still prescribe antibiotics for your infections. Antibiotics are also commonly overused in pregnancy, birth and early childhood. And unfortunately, even one course of antibiotics can have detrimental effects to kids’ immune systems. Nearly every child that I personally see as a naturopath with immune issues, or recurrent infections have had either a heavy history of antibiotic use. Exposure to antibiotics very young in early life. So we really want to make sure that antibiotics are necessary before we are giving them to our children. 

Let’s talk a little bit about what I call the antibiotic cycle. This really helps to illustrate what antibiotics can do to the body. And this is a common scenario that I see in the kids that I work with as a naturopath. So a child gets an infection, they go to the doctor who gives them a script for antibiotics. There’s not really a whole lot of other options that modern medical doctors have for infections. It’s antibiotics, or rest, or it’s fever medication, those sorts of things. So assuming that in this particular incidence, the infection is bacterial. The antibiotics will hopefully clear that infection up. But as the antibiotics kill off the bad bacteria, you know, that antibiotics kill bacteria, right? That’s why they’re called antibiotics.

They also wipe out beneficial bacteria within the gut microbiome. Antibiotics can also start to impair immune function. They do this by reducing a process called phagocytosis, which we have talked about in previous episodes. This is one of the first line defenses against infection. So this can slow down the immune system as the antibiotics are doing the job on its behalf. I like to explain this to the parents that I work with. The antibiotics are coming in to do the job of the immune system for that particular child. In some cases, this is needed to really clear out a nasty infection, but sometimes it’s not needed. And so the immune system thinks, “Well, I don’t really have to work as hard because these antibiotics are doing the job for me.”

So there’s that two-pronged negative approach. A child takes the antibiotics, it wipes out the beneficial bacteria, but also slows down that first line of defense against infection. Because of the loss of good bacteria and that impaired immune function, the immune defenses are lowered. So then that child goes out into the world and is more likely to pick up another infection. The cycle continues. This is the cycle that I see a lot of kids on, that are presenting to Natural Super Kids. Wanting support because mums and dads want different alternatives to just giving their kids antibiotics all the time. So as you can see, using antibiotics for kids and adults, this same thing happens can be a bit of a vicious cycle.

That’s why reaching for antibiotics every time doesn’t protect our kid from illness. It can sometimes make the situation worse. I just wanted to share a story of one of our long term members in the Natural Super Kids Klub, Belle. She had a son that was on this antibiotic cycle. He was getting infection after infection. And she was giving him antibiotic script after antibiotic script, because she didn’t know any other way. The cycle was continuing. She went to the doctor one day, in tears with another infection. You know how exhausting sick kids can be and how much of an emotional impact they can have on the entire family as well. Whether it’s the child themselves, the parents, the siblings.

Belle was at the end of her tether and this particular doctor, recommended Natural Super Kids to her. And so she came over. She came to the immunity masterclass that we are running next week. Well, an updated version of that we’re running and she joined the Natural Super Kids Klub. After that, she has managed to break this antibiotic cycle by supporting her son’s immune system. Rather than relying on antibiotics all the time, every time that he gets sick.

This is something that I hear from our Natural Super Kids Klub members all the time. You know, the klub has really helped to empower them to know what to do when their kids get sick. If we can get in early at the first sign of any sort of infection or illness, with nutrition and herbal medicine and other things that we recommend as naturopaths, then we can get on top of infections really effectively without having to rely on antibiotics all the time. 

Another story that comes to mind is a client I had a few years ago now, a little girl called Zara. Her mum again was at the end of her tether. There was some complex kind of issues going on with Zara, but she kept getting sick. She kept getting antibiotics prescribed, and she had some intolerances going on as well. We talked a bit about how intolerances can be a contributing factor in recurrent infections in last week’s episode. So there was definitely some of those things going on for her. She was a fussy eater as well. This is often a problem when kids do have sensitivities and intolerances. They are fussy eaters, they don’t have a big appetite. There was some things going on with Zara but our primary goal was to get her off of this antibiotic cycle.

That had a positive flow on effect on all of these other areas as well. We just supported her immune system with some basic nutrition. Other supplements and managed to get her off of this recurrent infection cycle. Her appetite improved. Part of the recovery from all the antibiotics that she has had was working on her gut health. When that started improving, her fussy eating started improving too. A lot of the time, all of this kind of messy stuff that’s happening with our kids’ health. If we work on one area, it has a positive impact on lots of other areas as well. Within a few weeks, little Zara was not picking up all the infections anymore. She was feeling a whole lot better and a lot more energetic, and so that was a really great outcome for her. 

I want to talk a little bit about how we can break this antibiotic cycle in kids. So there are lots of things that we can consider here. The first one is to make sure that antibiotic use is necessary. So you know, being aware that antibiotics do not work for viral infections. Even mild bacterial infections can be managed with plenty of rest and immune support. I think as parents, we just need to be a bit more confident and empowered as to what we can do. We can turn to as an alternative to antibiotics, and obviously getting some medical recommendations as well.

You don’t need to rush to the doctor every time your child has an infection. When possible, we want to give their system a little time to fight off the germs first. Remember that kids should bounce back from illness quite quickly with the right support. And so we want to be making sure that antibiotics are absolutely necessary before we give them. If you’ve got a doctor that prescribes antibiotics willy-nilly all the time, then you might want to look at a second opinion. Finding a new doctor that is comfortable with some alternative approaches to infections too.

The next thing we need to do is to restore that good bacteria. As I said, antibiotics wipe out that really beneficial bacteria that has a very important role to play in our child’s gut health. Their immune health and so many more areas. Many of the side effects that are caused by antibiotics are because of their effect on the gut microbiome. Because along with the bad bugs that the antibiotics are wiping out, we are also wiping out the good bugs. So whenever you give your child a course of antibiotics, we want to replenish that good bacteria with some probiotics. We need to remember that a healthy gut has a balance of different bacteria, viruses, fungi. It really is a little mini ecosystem in there.

But when we wipe out the good bugs, it can lead to an overgrowth of the unhealthy or pathogenic bugs. Which can cause symptoms such as thrush, diarrhoea which are common side effects from antibiotics. So to counteract the effect of antibiotics, we want to make sure that we’re restoring that good bacteria in the gut. We can do that with probiotic supplements, we can do it with fermented foods. I will pop a link to an article that I have on our blog about probiotics so that you can have a look there at my recommendations. We just need to get some of those good bugs back into our kids when we give them antibiotics.

Generally, if it’s a short course of antibiotics that they’ve been on, I would wait until they get through those antibiotics. Then give them the probiotics after that. If they’re on more longer term antibiotics, then you can give probiotics at the same time as antibiotics. You want to give them a couple of hours apart from each other. Just be aware that antibiotics will be having a negative effect on those probiotic supplements that you’re giving as well. So you really want to replenish that good bacteria after any course of antibiotics.

Probiotic supplements and fermented foods have a positive powering effect on the immune system. They’re a great option to be giving to our kids regularly through the winter. To help to reduce the amount of infections and boost their immune system as well. The next thing we want to be thinking about is powering up those immune cells. Now that you know that antibiotic use can reduce the function of essential immune cells, as we talked about earlier. We want to make sure that the next time our kids come across a germ, their immune systems are ready to defend or to act. There’s a variety of nutrients and herbs that can support our immune cells.

We talked about foods to boost immunity a couple of episodes ago. That’s a great little practical resource to have a look at and we’re going to be diving deeper into this in the upcoming masterclass. So make sure you’re registered for that because I’m going into the specific nutrients that you want to get into your kids more often. Things like vitamin C and zinc are really great nutrients for powering up those immune cells. Remember, dosages of these nutrients will depend on your child’s age and needs. So you want to get some personalised advise when it comes to dosages and supplements. We do offer consultations here at Natural Super Kids, online consultations.

Even an express consultation can sometimes be enough to get the information that you need. If it’s just some immune powering nutrients that you want some advice on. So check out our website for details of that. I will pop a link to our appointment page in the show notes as well. This is something that we help our Klub members with a lot. You get this sort of supplement support when you’re a Klub member and we’re going to be opening the Klub very soon. So look out for that if you’re interested in becoming a Klub member for that ongoing support for your family’s health. 

Just to summarise those points of how we can help our kids recover from antibiotics and get off that antibiotic cycle. If your children are sort of relying on antibiotics a little bit too often for your liking:

  1. Make sure that antibiotics are necessary for that particular infection. There other things that you could use instead. Seek professional advice on this. Get a second opinion if you’re not happy with the way that your doctors are addressing or approaching infections in your kids.
  2. Restore that good bacteria. That’s really important after antibiotic use. It’s a really great strategy to keep your kid’s immune system and your own immune system healthy throughout the winter. We know that gut health and the microbiome has such an important role to play in the immune system and immune function. So we really want to give it its best chance. We can do that with probiotics and fermented foods.
  3. Power up those immune cells with the right nutrition. There are also herbs and things that we can use, which I will be diving into more details on this in the masterclass. Nutrients like zinc and vitamin C will help to power up those neutrophils. They are really important first line defense for our kids immune system. So they don’t get sick every time they come in contact with some sort of a germ or microbe.  

I’m just so passionate about this topic. Because I see firsthand in my naturopathic work, how much of a devastating effect the overuse of antibiotics can have on a child’s overall health. We know that when our microbiome is depleted from high antibiotic use, and there’s so many other factors as well. You know, it can affect not just our kids immune system, but it can lead to digestive issues. It can lead to mood and behavioural challenges that can lead to fussy eating. So, it can have an overall negative effect on our kids’ health and well-being. And we want to try and prevent that as much as possible.  

I really hope that you got some insights into some of those more negative effects that antibiotics can have on our kids’ health. Hopefully you’re leaving feeling a bit more empowered. About things that you can do to power up your kids’ immune system to avoid those unnecessary antibiotics this winter. I do just want to remind you that we are holding that live masterclass, 3 Simple Ways to Naturally Boost your Kid’s Immunity to avoid a winter full of sickness next week, on Tuesday, the 15th of June. Wednesday, the 16th of June and Thursday, the 17th of June.

I would love for you to come along. We’re going to have lots of fun and I’m going to be sharing some really practical tips. We’re going to build on what we’ve talked about in the podcast over the last few weeks. So make sure you take the opportunity to sign up for this free masterclass. Get some of those tips and strategies that I use with my own family and my naturopathic clients. I just love sharing this information far and wide. So I would love to see you at the masterclass. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. If you can leave a review on your podcast app or platform of choice, that would be amazing. It really helps for more people to find the podcast if we’ve got reviews. So I would really appreciate any reviews that you leave. And as always, if you have an a-ha moment or something, just letting me know that you enjoyed this episode. I’d love to hear from you. You can send a direct message to me on Instagram over at Natural Super Kids. I love to chat with people in my DMs on Instagram. Yeah, so I hope to hear from you. 

Next week, we will be diving into a new topic. I’m not gonna say too much yet. We’ve got some guest interviews coming up very soon. I will see you in your ears on next week’s episode. Thanks so much for tuning in!