What are Antibiotics?
Antibiotics are prescription drugs used to inhibit or kill bacterial infections that cause disease. The meaning of the name antibiotic is “kill life.” While the drug is intended to wipe out pathogenic microorganisms that make a person sick, it ironically kills the good bacteria as well. This good bacteria makes up the individual’s microbiome which is the key to your overall health.
Why Your Gut Microbiome is Key to Health
Your mini-ecosystem or human microbiome is made up of microorganisms, and your gut houses most of them. Making up this mini-ecosystem are bacteria, archaea, protists, fungi, and viruses. To find out that your body houses these tiny little creatures may be disturbing, but you actually wouldn’t be alive without them. Think of them as warriors defending your castle (body) from all the oncoming artillery of pathogens being fired every day.
Not only is your gut microbiome guarding your fort, it is hard at work in many other ways. From the foods you eat, it makes energy available. It also fights off and disposes toxic waste. When you have a sense of wellbeing, you know it’s doing an excellent job as it cares for your immune system and produces the “feel good” brain chemical called serotonin. Yet, these are only a few ongoing tasks that your microbiome handles.
How Antibiotic Treatment Violates Your Gut Microbiota
Many things can disturb your microbiome, including changes in eating habits and bowel function. The use of medications and antibiotics also disrupt gut health negatively. Not only do antibiotics shift or displace your defending gut warriors, but they unintentionally kill them along with the bad guys. They know no difference between good and bad bacteria.
In fact, a single course of antibiotics can adversely modify your gut microbiome and advance the development of Clostridium difficile, a dangerous pathogen that causes inflammation of the colon with intestinal conditions such as colitis. The class of antibiotics responsible for promoting this contagious bacterium is cephalosporin which is used to treat a wide variety of bacterial infections including the respiratory system, urinary tract, and skin.
A study reported in PLOS Biology also demonstrated that a short course of ciprofloxacin significantly influenced one-third of good gut bacteria. This antibiotic decreased the taxonomic richness, diversity, and evenness of the population. The study did state that some gut microbiota returned to normal state within four weeks after treatment; however, several failed to recover within six months. Ciprofloxacin is used to treat a plethora of ailments.
While these are only a couple of studies that show you how antibiotics violate the human microbiome, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other studies proving the same. In 2017, a Johns Hopkins Medicine study determined that one-fifth of patients taking antibiotics had adverse side effects which included gastrointestinal and kidney abnormalities. An unbalanced gut microbiota is also a contributing factor to chronic inflammatory conditions and autoimmune disease.
When Antibiotics are Necessary
If you’re really sick and can’t overcome your illness within several days or a week, you’re probably going to make an appointment to see your doctor. In deciding whether you need a prescription for antibiotics, your healthcare practitioner will use his experience and science.
Based on symptoms alone, it can be difficult for your doctor to determine an illness as a viral or bacterial infection. Some things he may take into consideration are fever, mucus color, sore throat, how long you’ve been sick, and any outbreaks of the same illness in your local area. However, all of these considerations could still be viral or bacterial.
The only ironclad way to determine when antibiotics is the right choice is by conducting a lab test. Your practitioner may take a collection of mucus or swab your throat for bacterial infection. While the results may take a day or two, it’s definitely worth the wait as you don’t want to risk your gut health.
When Antibiotics are Unnecessary
Each year, 154 million prescriptions of antibiotics are passed out by medical doctors in the United States. They are meant for the treatment of bacterial infections only, but 50 percent of antibiotic usage are unnecessary according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, doctors commonly prescribe them for viral and fungal infections such as the common cold, influenza, and yeast infections. So, what’s the harm?
While antibiotics have saved millions of lives over the last 80 years, they are actually harmful to your overall health when not needed. Misuse and over-exposure of these medications wreak havoc on your gut microbiome that keeps you healthy and alive. Unfortunately, antibiotics can’t differentiate between the good and bad bacteria.
Following are some ailments that many people seek treatment for. However, antibiotics will not help in most cases, so keep this in mind.
Colds & Flus: These illnesses are caused by viruses and cannot be cured with antibiotics.
Coughs & Bronchitis: Bacteria could be the cause of coughs and bronchitis; however, viruses are usually the cause and therefore cannot be healed with antibiotics. Be sure your doctor tests you before prescribing antibiotics.
Sore Throats: Viruses usually cause sore throats, but strep throat is caused by bacteria. Your doctor can test you before prescribing antibiotics.
Ear Infections: Whether in children or adults, most ear infections are usually viral and will go away on their own. If you’ve had a high fever for a long time, your doctor may want to treat you with antibiotics. Be sure he tests you first.
Sinus Infections: Mucus that is yellow or green is not always indicative of a bacterial infection. Most sinus infections are caused by a cold virus, and you will not need antibiotic treatment. Make sure your doctor tests you before prescribing antibiotics.
Even if you do have a bacterial infection, you may want to save antibiotic treatment for serious illnesses. When I say “serious,” I think “hospital stay.” However, there are a few considerable illnesses outside of a hospital stay that do require antibiotics. Yet, you may still want to try a natural home remedy first. Then when all else fails, go for the antibiotics if you’re not getting well.
Protecting Your Gut Health is Caring for Your Overall Health
When you’re sick, it can be difficult to wait it out. While conventional medicine tries to suppress symptoms, a fever and cough are actually your body’s way to healing itself. Consider a natural protocol for illnesses before heading to your doctor for an antibiotic prescription. It would be wise to treat yourself with botanicals, homeopathic preparations, and nutraceuticals before delving into the little bottle of pink pills. Protecting your gut health is important for overall health.
If you want to learn more about protecting your gut, check out this article: Protecting Your Microbiome for Better Gut Health.