Antibiotics….Helpful or Harmful?
I’m sure you’ve heard of antibiotic resistant “super bugs” and the decreasing efficacy of antibiotics in general. Some people take a doomsday point of view – ‘we’re all going to die of simple infections without antibiotics’! Others say we should ban them all together. But what’s the reality of the situation?
Antibiotics can be useful and lifesaving. They are routinely used for surgery when people are at greater risk for infection, and to wipe out illnesses and sexually transmitted diseases that the body could not otherwise rid itself of. However, we haven’t come up with any new antibiotics since the 1980s!
The biggest problem, as I see it, is that nowadays antibiotics are used for everything! I can remember several occasions when we had that pink bubble gum Amoxicillin in our refrigerator as a kid. Think about it… Have a sinus infection? Antibiotics. The flu? Antibiotics. A sore throat? Antibiotics. A urinary tract infection? Antibiotics. And it’s not just doctors overprescribing these drugs…people use leftover antibiotics after not taking their full course of meds all the time.
Why does it matter? Well, there are 6 categories of antibiotics, and they are all used to treat different types of infections. They have different side effects, different interactions with other medications, and different treatment courses. And since some strains of bacteria can alter over time and become resistant to whatever’s trying to kill it, using the wrong drug, or not enough of the right drug, can have serious implications. In addition, antibiotics can destroy the good bacteria in the body, which allows the bad bacteria to multiply and replace them.
So what should we do? The short answer is to be more careful about what you’re doing to treat infections. Do your research! For example, antibiotics should not be used for colds. Colds are viral, and cannot be helped by taking antibiotics. Instead, help your immune system fight it off: Vitamin C, Zinc, Echinacea, and Elderberry all help boost your immune system; get some extra sleep; breathe in the steamy vapors of eucalyptus; use a neti pot to help clear out your nasal passages. You’d be amazed at the number of herbs that have antiviral and antibacterial properties. I swear by Uva Ursi for urinary tract infections, and Thyme and an essential oil blend known as thieves to prevent cold and flu. The best thing about herbs, vitamins, and minerals is that they work with your system, strengthening it to fight off invaders now and in the future.
Hope for the future? While I certainly don’t advocate using antibiotics for everyday infections, I do understand that sometimes they are necessary. The following articles have some interesting information about new breakthroughs in antibiotic research and development:
Above all, be informed so you can be well.
Are Antibiotics Really Appropriate for What Ails You? US News and World Report.