Your life may depend on avoiding antibiotics until you really need them. Kill the germ with an antibiotic, and your infection problem- sinus congestion, earache, urinary tract infection, cough – is solved. Right? Well for the past 50 years, this is how conventional medicine has been treating patients. But 98 percent of those infections would have gotten better with some very basic care, like rest and fluids. And antibiotics do nothing to get rid of a virus when you have the flu.
The notion that the neat solution to every infection is to find the right antibiotic is not only incorrect, it has led us into big trouble. We are addicted to antibiotics. We think they’ll cure everything from cholera to a hangnail. If you think this is exaggerated, check out these numbers: About 145 million courses of antibiotics are prescribed each year in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms across the United States, Add to this the 190 million doses handed out in American hospitals each year, and you ve got a good idea of the rampant overuse of these drugs. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics indicates that antibiotics have been given to millions of patients who had viral infections that antibiotics are useless against. And if you think antibiotic abuse isn’t about the money, think about the billions of dollars those millions of prescriptions represent.
Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin, warned us nearly a century ago that the overuse of antibiotics would create resistant bacteria. In fact, antibiotics are a major cause of recurrent infections, and our overuse of them is breeding highly resistant strains of “superbugs” that are immune to all known types of antibiotics. To add insult to injury, we have lost the war on infectious diseases, even with all these antibiotics and better hygiene.According to a recent press conference held by the American Medical Association, infectious diseases have reemerged as a serious health threat. Just in the past decade, death from infectious diseases has risen a stunning 58 percent worldwide. Even after subtracting the deaths caused by the HIV virus, it’s still up by 22 percent. Most of these deaths are caused by infections in the lungs and the blood that are resistant to antibiotics.
By using antibiotics as a cure-all, the magic bullet has come back to hit us. Every time we take antibiotics, we are giving harmful bacteria a new opportunity to become resistant. The consequence of this is that many antibiotics are useless. An increasingly common scenario in American hospital is hospitalized patients who get a hospital-based staph infection or pneumonia that is totally resistant to antibiotics. People with antibiotic-resistant diseases often die. Tuberculosis is making a comeback because it is now resistant to most antibiotics, along with a highly resistant strains of pneumonia. Think twice and question your physician very closely before using an antibiotic.
Superbugs are just one of the downsides of these drugs. Antibiotics kill our beneficial gut bacteria, which provide a frontline defense system against harmful bacteria, viruses, and other environmental irritants such as allergens, and toxins such as pesticides. Antibiotics also weaken the immune system, promote the growth of harmful candida, create a friendly environment for parasites, and can cause excessive loss of vitamins and minerals through digestive problems. They cause diarrhea and create a susceptibility to food allergies by destroying the protective bacteria that line the gut.
Clearly we need to find other ways to fight infections and to support our immune systems when we get sick. Antibiotics should only be used as a final resort in fighting a potentially life-threatening infection. Before he or she prescribes an antibiotic, your physician should do a culture to find out (1) if bacteria are present, and if so, (2) what strain of bacteria are present and thus what type of antibiotic to give you. Avoid wide-spectrum antibiotics whenever possible.
On my next blog entry I will discuss a brief overview of antibiotics and give you natural alternatives to antibiotics. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your antibiotics that you may be taking right now, call your physician, or you may call me at my office at 916-877-HEAL (4325)
- Antibiotic Resistance: Expert Q&A With the CDC (webmd.com)
- Health Tip: Why Antibiotic Resistance Is Serious (nlm.nih.gov)
- Mrs. Money: Infection Control with Natural Antibiotics (savings.com)