I was horrified to read the article posted by Scientific American today called "Antibiotic Resistance is Now Rife Across the Globe." Here is an excerpt from the article:
Antibiotic resistance is putting patients in peril in both developing and developed countries, as bacteria responsible for an array of dangerous infections evolve resistance to the drugs that once vanquished them.This is scary news! Now, more than ever, we must protect ourselves from dangerous pathogens by building up our immune systems. That means eating a healthy diet, rich in antioxidants, vitamin A, C and E, and ensuring that our bodies are armed with good bacteria and healthy intestinal microflora. My article below, posted on Sept. 2013, provides more details about antibiotic-resistance and how to protect your health.
Gonorrhea, once well treated by antibiotics, is once again a major public health threat due to the emergence of new, resistant strains. Drugs that were once a last resort treatment for the sexually transmitted disease—which can lead to infertility, blindness and increased odds of HIV transmission if left untreated—are now the first-line treatment and are sometimes ineffective among patients in countries such as the U.K., Canada, Australia, France, Japan, Norway, South Africa, Slovenia and Sweden.
Drugs to treat Klebsiella pneumoniae—a common intestinal bacteria that can cause life-threatening infections in intensive care unit patients and newborns—no longer work in more than half of patients in some countries. And fluoroquinolones, drugs used to treat urinary tract infections, are also ineffective in more than half of sufferers in many parts of the world. Efforts to limit the spread of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, malaria and HIV are also all under threat due to increasing bacterial resistance.
Scientific American published a frightening article today titled, "Drug-Resistant Superbugs Kill at Least 23,000 People in the U.S. Each Year." This issue - that kids and adults are dying from infections that should be curable by antibiotics - has received a fair amount of media attention over the past couple of years, but clearly not enough.
The article states that, "Each year, more than two million people in the United States develop antibiotic-resistant infections, and at least 23,000 of them die as a result."
That's a staggering figure! But apparently, it's a low estimate:
"Because it’s difficult to attribute a death directly to antibiotic-resistant microbes, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says these figures probably underestimate the scale of the problem."
What is antibiotic-resistance?
The article explains that, "Antibiotic-resistance most often arises when commercial antibiotics kill good bacteria that protect the body from infection alongside bacteria that cause illness–setting the stage for drug-resistant bacteria to flourish and take over. Some drug-resistant bacteria are then able to exchange genes with other bacteria, spreading resistance and helping sideline drugs normally capable of treating infection. CDC scientists have long said that the overuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals has contributed to the spread of drug-resistant “superbugs.” In fact, multiple studies during the last decade have found that about half of all antibiotics prescribed in the U.S. are not needed or are inappropriate."
Irresponsible antibiotic use is life-threatening
I've heard several doctors say that some of their patients insist on antibiotic prescriptions for their children, even for viral infections, because they don't have time to deal with an illness. This reckless approach to one's health (especially a child's!) is dangerous and will likely have lifelong consequences.
Antibiotics, particularly broad-spectrum, destroy gut bacteria - bad and good. After a course of treatment, the intestine is wiped clean and it's easy for invaders to take hold of the intestinal 'real estate' - meaning, unhealthy microbes quickly populate and spread. This can cause a host of health problems from yeast infections and rosacea to psychological problems, asthma, allergies, and more.
My kids have never taken antibiotics as there are many (many!) alternative ways to treat both bacterial and viral infections. We're saving the antibiotics for the extremely serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses.
How do you protect yourself?
Avoid taking antibiotics unless it's absolutely necessary. Antibiotics are only useful against bacterial infections, not viral. They will not help you (or your child) recover from a cold or flu. To fight a virus, you have many options, just a few of which are:
-oil of oregano (drops)
-Echinaforce (by Vogel)
Take probiotics daily. Probiotics are the good bacteria the article mentions. They protect your digestive system, immune system, brain - in fact, they protect your entire body from infection. Probiotics can be found in the refrigerated section of your health food store. They exist in foods as well, particularly in fermented foods such as yogurt, Greek yogurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut. If you are already taking a probiotic supplement but are just as prone to infection as you were before you started taking it, it may not have the right balance of microflora that your body needs. Combine various types of probiotic sources from foods and try different probiotic supplements. Always purchase them refrigerated and store them in the fridge at home or at work.
Buy antibiotic-free meat. More than half of the antibiotics produced each year are given to livestock. Even if you or your child have not taken antibiotics, they are entering your body each time you eat meat. For most of us, that's every single day! Antibiotic-free meat and fish (or even better, organic meat and fish) are now available at most grocery stores. They cost a little more, but in my opinion - and considering the threat antibiotic-resistant bugs pose - it's well worth it.
Read the full article in Scientific American: