The Golden Age of Antibiotics
Since the discovery and mass production of antibiotics many, many lives have been saved.
If you had lived any time before WWII and got a massive infection there was a pretty good chance you would have died.
In the early 1900s the first antibiotic, penicillin was created in very small amounts but not used much. Being made from a mold, it was just too hard to purify. Until during WWII, when the US and British governments developed a project to create large amounts of penicillin.
With the finding that antibiotics could save the lives of soldiers (and win wars), antibiotics became a priority and many new classes of antibiotics were created. Many we still use.
Antibiotics save lives
There is no doubt that antibiotics save lives, but Americans now request them for the slightest little inconvenience such as a cold which is a virus. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses. In fact, a virus is “self-limiting” and will run its course in a few days. Of the estimated 154 million prescriptions written in doctors offices every year, about 30 percent are unnecessary.
We learned in the last post, the most used herbicide in the world, glyphosate in Roundup has antibiotic properties adding to our antibiotic load from many foods as well as meats. Currently, about 24 million pounds of various antibiotics are prescribed every year. But only about 5 million pounds are prescribed for humans. 19 million are used to prevent disease in food animals.
Antibiotics plus preservatives in food kill gut microbes. The average American can ingest up to 120 grams of antibiotics per year in their food.
We grew up believing that ALL bacteria were bad. In recent years antibacterial products have flooded the market. Using antibacterial soaps, hand cleaners, cleaning products, raises that antibiotic load even further.
Bacteria are very adept at changing in order to survive. With the overuse of antibiotics, bacteria have become immune to antibiotics currently available. In fact, we are running out of medications that are effective.
Subsequently, we are experiencing the threat of “superbugs” resistant to everything we have. To help preserve our antibiotic choices and slow the development of superbugs, antibiotics should only be used for life or death concerns.
Are antibiotics related to deaths?
The European Journal Cancer sites a study (1) suggesting that recurrent exposure to certain antibiotics may be associated with cancer risk in specific organ sites such as,
In addition, antibiotic resistance is making it harder to prescribe antibiotics necessary to treat infections contracted during cancer treatment.
People receiving chemotherapy are often at risk for developing an infection when their white blood cell count is low. For these patients, any infection can quickly become serious and effective antibiotics are critical for protecting the patient from severe complications or death.
Antibiotics kill ALL bacteria
Antibiotics are not selective in the destruction of bacteria. They kill the good along with the bad. Any woman who has taken antibiotics has a story of not long after completing the full course of antibiotics she has then been afflicted with a yeast infection caused by Candida overgrowth.
Candida is a big problem in the modern world. This is an overgrowth of yeast in the body that can overwhelm the system and cause inflammation. Why? Recall the gut microbiome is made up of bacteria.
It’s all about balance
Our bodies are finely tuned, everything in balance. Once one area has become unbalanced it affects another.
Dr. Mark Hyman, a highly respected Functional Medicine Practitioner tells the story of a patient he had.
A young girl who had been diagnosed with a myriad of diseases. Arthritis, vasculitis, misconnect tissue disease, hepatitis, and dermatitis. She had been treated for all these inflammatory conditions with high doses of corticosteroids that suppress inflammation but also damage the whole-body microbiome.
This patient was eating a lot of tuna and sushi. Our oceans are so polluted that seafood has become drenched in mercury.
By changing her diet within one year all these conditions were gone.
Probiotics and the microbiome
There is a hypothesis that we are losing particular microbes generation after generation. Studies have shown that microbes provide beneficial functions. It’s easy to imagine that in losing certain microbes or classes of microbes, we are losing the benefits they provide us. One may imagine there could be a rise in certain types of diseases due to the absence of bacteria.
The new paradigm is that the absence of microbes may be a risk factor for disease…The absence of good bacteria.
Seeing as how antibiotics destroy gut bacteria, wouldn’t it be advisable to repopulate the gut bacteria after a course of antibiotics?
Not so fast. Doing so will cancel each other out. You can, however, take probiotics several hours after antibiotics.
Dr. Robin Berzin suggests taking antibiotic during the day then probiotics at night. That way the probiotics have some time to repopulate during sleeping hours. She also suggests avoiding sugar and refined carbs such as white bread and pasta which feeds yeast and fungus.
If you walk through the pharmacy area isles at your neighborhood grocery store, WalMart, Target etc. you will see bottles of probiotics. How do you choose?
Supplement manufacturers are not always honest.
Some brands may not include the correct species. Are these probiotics alive? Dead probiotic bacteria will not be effective.
Research and understanding of probiotics are still in its infancy but current knowledge is that there are three categories.
- L acidophilus
- L brevis
- L bulgaricus
- L casel
- L gasseri
- L plantarum
- L paracasei
- L rhamnosus
- L salivarius
- B breve
- B infantis
- B bifidum
- B lactis
- B longum
Friendly fungi/helpful yeast
- Saccharomyces boulardii
- Mannan Oligosaccharide (MOS)
- Bacillus laterosporus
- And several from the first two categories
When purchasing probiotic supplements look for as many of these bacteria as you can. If you find ONE that contains all of these, please let me know because I haven’t found that one yet. 😉
Should you run out and find the perfect probiotic supplement?
Not necessarily. The microbiome is much more than specific bacteria. No “pill” can provide a healthy microbiome no matter what the supplement company says.
Perhaps after selectively using antibiotics, you could take a supplement for a while to repopulate your gut microbiome but as always, the best medicine is food.
One day perhaps research will find specific probiotics to treat specific conditions.
Probiotics and prebiotics
In a nutshell, probiotics are the good bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics are food for the good probiotic bacteria.
Let food be thy medicine
The food we feed our bacteria is the food we feed ourselves.
If you feed yourself junk food, sugar, white bread, white pasta, GMO foods really any processed food.
- Boxed mac & cheese, frozen dinners, and entrees, like Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine.
- Ice Cream with 20 ingredients. You can make your own with 4 ingredients
- Fast foods
Your gut bacteria will be junk.
Most of these foods are fermented foods.
You could mix a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar, the kind that has the yucky looking floating thing at the bottom like Braggs, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, and a pinch of black pepper, in 1 cup of water hold your nose (kidding) and drink it down.
Apple cider vinegar is probiotic, turmeric is anti-inflammatory, pepper makes turmeric more accessible to the body, and cinnamon is great for arteries.
Prebiotic foods are mostly fiber,
- Sweet potatoes
to name a few.
The Hygiene Hypothesis
A sterile society is a sick society
Walk down the household aisle in your grocery store and you will see anti-bacterial everything. Soaps, hand cleaner, wipes, even toothpaste.
When did we become so afraid of microbes?
Perhaps when the microscope was discovered by Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek and he looked at a drop of water to find things swimming around and thought, this stuff can’t be good for us.
Perhaps with the discovery of penicillin that killed infection from bacteria, it was thought that ALL microbes are dangerous.
Eat Dirt (affiliate link)
In Western societies, we are seeing a rise in allergies, autoimmune diseases, neurodevelopmental disorders. Science doesn’t know exactly why this rise, but there is a hypothesis that suggests a cleaner lifestyle, with the absence of contact with microbes, may result in certain events: the loss of particular biological activities that then result in disease.
For more in-depth info on this subject, you may like the book “An Epidemic of Absence” (affiliate link)
Perhaps we need to rethink our relationship with microbes.
You must build your immune system. You need to eat dirt. Remember the soil probiotics?
If you grow your own food and you used only organic methods, then you know the dirt is free of toxic chemicals. Maybe don’t scrub your vegetables just rinse lightly. Never peel root vegetables. If you drop a bit of food on the floor, don’t toss it in the garbage, toss it into your mouth.
There is data suggesting that people raised on farms have less asthma, allergies, and autoimmune disease. Why? Their microbiome is diverse. The more diverse your microbiome, the stronger your immune system.
Antibiotics for babies? Think twice!
Proponents of the Hygiene Hypothesis say we should be exposed to microbes just out of the womb to program the immune system. If babies don’t get that, their immune system may become intolerant and begin to react to things it shouldn’t. The consequence may be later in life they get any number of autoimmune disorders.
Dr. Robin Berzin says “I remind people, too, that when your kids are sick early on, that’s our immune system training and building up and getting stronger and not that we wish illness on our kids, but giving a child an antibiotic for a viral ear infection really does a significant amount
of damage, particularly a young child under three when the microbiome is still forming.
That’s not something that we can fix by giving them a probiotic or giving them yogurt.
That’s something we can fix by not giving them the antibiotic in the first place and
allowing their immune system to strengthen”.
Remember? Antibiotics do not kill viruses, viruses are self- limiting.
This led me to ask, what causes colic in babies. I found this in Science Daily about a study done at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston in 2009. (2)
Researchers say one organism discovered during their study may unlock the key to what causes colic, inconsolable crying in an otherwise healthy baby. The study pointed to an organism called Klebsiella, a normally occurring bacterium that can be found in the mouth, skin, and intestines. In the study of 36 babies, half of which had colic, researchers found the bacterium and gut inflammation in the intestines of the babies with colic.
In short, don’t be so afraid of bacteria. Many bacteria are your friends, you need them and they need you. 😊
What you learned
- Antibiotics also kill the good bacteria and can ruin your gut
- You can be exposed to antibiotics through food.
- Too many antibiotics may lead to serious gut issues.
- Probiotics are known to help restore some of the good bacteria you need.
- Allow 2 hours in between taking your antibiotic and a probiotic or they will cancel each other out. (3)
- Probiotics can combat some of the inflammation in the gut.
- There are 3 categories of Probiotics: Lactobacillus, Fungus, & Soil Based bacillus.
- Probiotics are strains of bacteria, the right ones for you can help balance your microbiome.
- Prebiotics are foods that feed good bacteria
- You must build your immune system.
- Less exposure to germs can leave you more exposed to Infection or allergies
- Children need to get dirty with germs to stay healthy.
- The more resilient you are to germs the better you will be at fighting infections
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