Antibiotics can save your life. They are powerful and they are very useful for combating serious bacterial infections. But, that doesn't mean that they are the "end all be all" when it comes to fighting disease. Sadly, they've become the candy of the pharmaceutical world, being given out for colds and flus which may not be bacterial in origin at all. And there is a cost to taking them that has to be considered.
Here's what you need to know:
1. They create drug resistant strains of bacteria. Antibiotics come in and they kill most of those pesky infection causing bacteria, but some survive. They are the mutants and when they are left behind, they start to multiply. Problem is, the antibiotics we have don't kill them so well. And if you end up with a bacterial infection made up of those mutants, the antibiotics aren't going to work so well. This is a problem because infections that we used to be able to treat are now becoming life threatening.
2. They suppress the immune system. Those who take the most antibiotics tend to get sick more frequently. Antibiotics work by inhibiting enzymatic functioning of a bacteria and also change the mineral balance. These two actions don't just happen to the infected area, but also to healthy bacteria which is part of our natural immune system. When that healthy bacteria dies, it takes part of our immune system power with it.
3. They may be linked to increase chance of cancer. A large study of 3 million people that was done by the International Journal of Cancer showed that those taking antibiotics 2-5 times over the course of 6 years had increased the chance of cancer by 27%. Six or more antibiotics over that time period increased the chances to 37%. Another study published in the JAMA showed that women who took more than 25 antibiotics over the course of 17 years had doubled their chances of breast cancer. While more studies need to be done, these results cannot be ignored.
4. They disrupt intestinal flora. Antibiotics are not specific enough to attack only the "bad" bacteria that's causing an infection. They also destroy the "good" bacteria that you have in your digestive system, which is very important for assimilation of food and nutrients and healthy movement of waste products though your system. An imbalance of bacteria in the gut can be related to food allergies, inflammation, diarrhea, and vitmain/mineral deficiencies, which impacts your immune system.
5. They increase the chance of obesity. There is a link between an increase in body weight, especially body fat, and an imbalance of bacteria in the gut. A study was done where the bacteria in the gut of severely overweight mice was transplanted into the gut of lean mice. The result was the that lean mice gained an increase in body fat of 60% and increased insulin resistance which aids weight gain. A micro biome researcher at NYC named Dr. Martin Blaser believes that antibiotics disrupt our digestive system flora leading to weight gain similar to what happened with the above mentioned mice.
Since antibiotics are often prescribed, it's important to discuss with your doctor your concerns and to make sure that you have a bacterial infection that warrants an antibiotic, not a viral infection. By taking antibiotics responsibly, we'll reduce the chance of the long term side effects for ourselves and our environment.
My blog post next week will get more in-depth about our options to heal our gut post-antibiotics AND what to do to combat infections naturally. Stay tuned!
Healthy medical disclaimer: As always, if you are sick, see a licensed health care practitioner and get care. The information presented here is for informational purposes but it is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. If you are currently on any medication or treatment regime do not discontinue without discussing it with your doctor.
"Beyond Antibiotics" by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
"The Problems with Antibiotics: They Kill the Good Guys and Make You Fat," by MarksDailyApple.com