Sep 16, 2010

The Problem with Antibiotics

This week I was sent a link to a news article on the Fox News website , which I want to share with you. This is an excerpt from the article.

Even seemingly gentle antibiotics may severely disrupt the balance of microbes living in the gut, with unforeseen health consequences, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.
An intimate study of three women given ciprofloxacin showed the drug suppressed entire populations of beneficial bacteria, and at least one woman took months to recover.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, supports the common wisdom that antibiotics can damage the "good" germs living in the body.

It may also support the idea behind the development of so-called probiotic products including yogurt with live cultures of bacteria.

According to the article Les Dethlefsen and David Relman of Stanford University in California wrote, "The effect of ciprofloxacin on the gut microbiota was profound and rapid."

The article goes on to mention the potential link between destroying the good microbes in the gut and allergies, obesity, Crohns diseaseand the development of "superbugs."

I am happy to see more information coming into the mainstream regarding the danger of antibiotics. I was curious what the researcher's definition of "recover" was for the woman who took months to do it. Since the intestine is the foundation for the immune system, I suspect many of us are walking around with symptoms of intestinal flora damage without realizing the connection.

Another link sent to me this week was to a New York Times article about the current widespread practice of routinely administering antibiotics to conventionally raised animals. Apparently the FDA has plans for improved regulations.

While I am very glad the FDA recognizes that the practice of routine administration of antibiotics to the animals we eat is a problem, I wish they would follow this line of thinking to its logical end and realize that killing the good bacteria in naturally probiotic food, such as milk, is also a problem.

We have worked hard in our family to improve gut health by adding lots of probiotic foods including fermented vegetables, lacto-fermented drinks like kefir and kombucha, cultured dairy, and even probiotic supplements. We have also greatly reduced sweets especially any foods with refined sugar or white flour. These foods encourage bad microbes in the intestine.

Because I learned about the importance of probiotics and the health risks of antibiotics several years ago, My husband and I take the position that antibiotics are a last resort. Our first line of defense is good nutrition. The second line of defense is natural remedies. Fortunately, we have not been in a situation that even tempted us to take antibiotics for quite awhile. Although there were a couple of instances where a doctor couldn't resist the temptation to write a prescription that found its way into our trash. One prescription was for a sinus infection which resolved itself with lots of sinus rinses and one was for an intestinal issue from traveling across the border which also enventually resolved itself with a variety of natural treatments including heavy doses of probiotics. (I am NOT recommending you go against you doctor based on my example. Make your own health decisions - see our disclaimer.)

Reading The Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride this year opened my eyes even further to all the many health issues we and our children are facing as a result of damaged gut flora. For instance, does it strike you as odd that so very many children and adults living in a country that used to be primarily agrarian seem to be allergic to being outdoors? Allergies are a result of a confused and damaged immune system. Intestinal health is the foundation of our immune system. Dr. McBrides' book explains the importance of gut flora, what damages it, and how to restore balance using a protocol which, of course, involves Real Food.


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  1. My 18-month-old daughter is about to start a daily, low-dose regimen of an antibotic to protect her against kidney infections. She has some unpronouncable condition where urine refluxes back into one of her kidneys--not something we want to take any risks with, obviously. She'll likely be on the antibotic for 18 months or so. In your opinion, is a daily serving of full-fat yogurt the best way we can help promote a healthy balance in her digestive tract, or is there something else we might want to try?

  2. Brooke,

    Kidney infections are very serious. I see your delima. Yogurt contains some types of beneficial bacteria. Other probiotic foods can provide additional types of good bacteria. I suggest organic, unsweetened full fat yogurt. Whole Foods carries plain organic Stoneyfield yogurt with the cream on top. Kefir may even be more beneficial because of the different bacteria it contains. Again get it without additives. You can sweeten with fruit or real maple syrup. WAPF recommends raw milk and raw dairy products as a good source of beneficial bacteria. Additional good bacteria can be obtained from lacto-fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut. In addition to probiotic foods, probiotic supplements can be purchased at health food stores. As in all health matters, it is important to do your own research and talk with healthcare practitioners that you trust as you are making decisions with regard to your family's dietary and healthcare needs.



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