Australia’s most popular antibiotic has long been suspected of being less effective than in the past. How often do we hear of several successive courses of antibiotics being prescribed for symptoms of an infection without improvement. Eventually the immune system fights off the infection, but with little thanks to the antibiotic. Antibiotic resistance is now a mainstream topic and the evidence is mounting that over-use of prescribed antibiotics for viral and relatively minor bacterial infections is to blame.
There is no doubt that there are times when antibiotics are life saving in cases like bacterial pneumonia and meningitis. The dilemma arises when antibiotics are offered for less serious cases, for viral cases, the threat of secondary infections or “just in case”. For some people the initial symptoms are unaffected and are now accompanied by side effects and a vicious cycle of antibiotic over-use builds up.
What is antibiotic resistance?
Until the 1940s, when antibiotics were discovered, people with infections like tuberculosis and pneumonia often died because the available treatments were not very effective. With the discovery of new drugs, the ability to fight diseases improved dramatically but many bugs have become resistant to these drugs. Now, we continue to read news stories about superbugs, bacteria that are increasingly resistant to common antibiotics.
Bacteria can easily adapt to the onslaught of antibiotics by changing themselves and they multiply so fast they go through many generations in just a few hours. The trouble is that the weaker bacteria are usually killed off while the stronger, more resistant ones survive and multiply, and then become resistant. “There may be a time down the road when 80% to 90% of infections will be resistant to all known antibiotics.” (Walter Gilbert, Harvard professor and Noble Laureate.) If you take antibiotics unnecessarily you contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance, a growing global threat. Also, while the resistant bacteria are still alive, you act as a carrier of these germs, and you could pass them to family members. Research on new antibiotic drugs is not expected to appear in the immediate future, so there is a justified fear that bacteria become resistant to all our current antibiotics.
Exposure to drug-resistant bugs happens the same way you get other infections: contaminated food or water; unsafe sexual practices; contact with infected people or animals; contact with contaminated environmental surfaces or during hospital stays. Over one million resistant infections are acquired each year in U.S. hospitals at an estimated financial cost of 4-5 billion dollars (not to mention increased mortality)!
How can I cut down on the use of antibiotics?
One very simple answer, which apparently is much easier said than done. Do not demand antibiotics from your Doctor. Your Doctor is less likely to give you a “just-in-case” prescription if you stop asking for it.
Should I take antibiotics “just in case?”
No. Taking antibiotics “just in case” is not a good idea. Over 90% of coughs, colds, sinusitis etc. are caused by viruses, in which case, antibiotics will not help.
Keep your immune system in working order
The first time you stave off an infection using natural medicine, without the help of antibiotics or other drugs, it can be a challenge. However, allowing your immune system to really work, gives you long term benefits far beyond the recovery from a simple cold or bug. You are less likely to have a recurring illness.
Using antibiotics to treat these infections not only increases the risk of future episodes, but also increases the risk of developing complications, allergies or autoimmune illnesses. In the same way that muscles benefit from use and exercise, the immune system benefits from infectious challenges. These “common” infections provide the exercise, needed to keep the immune system strong.
Natural Medicine to the Rescue
One of the most popular and practical natural ways to combat infections is using food as medicine. Garlic has been shown to be an effective therapeutic agent for multidrug-resistant bacterial strains and also for food poisoning. Other antibiotic foods include manuka honey, propolis, royal jelly, oregano and probiotics.