Antibiotics and overuse, side effects, pregnancy, immune system, resistance, candida/yeast
Antibiotics have saved countless lives since the discovery of penicillin in 1928 by Sir Alexander Fleming. But now there is a growing concern that overuse of antibiotics can lead to unnecessary side effects and the development of drug resistant bacteria such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). MRSA has become the most common organism responsible for skin, soft tissue and surgical-site infections in the United States. Findings in a study of the genetic code of MRSA samples, have added support to the theory that the introduction of widespread antibiotic use in the 1960s may have spawned MRSA. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/7045108/Widespread-antibiotic-use-in-1960s-sparked-MRSA.html)
Why are antibiotics overused?
Antibiotics are commonly used for upper respiratory infections. But the majority of these infections are actually caused by viruses. Therefore in this situation antibiotics are not required as they only kill bacteria. The other concern is that patients are beginning to demand antibiotics from their doctors. They pressure them to give antibiotics because they want the quick fix so they can feel better and get back to work etc. Maybe physicians prescribe them because they feel they don’t have the time to explain why they are not necessary or they are overly cautious for medical legal reasons. But why would you ask for an antibiotic, if your cold is likely caused by a virus?
Side effects of antibiotics?
If I start listing the side effects of anitbiotics then I would have to write a another blog about it, that no one wants to read. But, according to one study, an estimated 142,505 visits annually were made to US emergency departments (ED) for drug‐related adverse events attributable to systemic antibiotics. Antibiotics were implicated in 19.3% of all ED visits for drug‐related adverse events, allergic reactions being the most common. They say “minimizing unnecessary antibiotic use by even a small percentage could significantly reduce the immediate and direct risks of drug‐related adverse events in individual patients.” (http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/591126)
Antibiotic use during pregnancy
Taking certain antibiotics during pregnancy may be a risky proposition since women who take them may deliver babies with increased risk of birth defects because they have not been fully tested for safety during pregnancy. This is important since about 30 percent of women take antibiotics during pregnancy, mainly during the third trimester. According to research, commonly used penicillins, erthyromycins, and cephlasporins were not associated with birth defects, whereas sulfonamides and nitrofurantoins were associated with several birth defects. Therefore researchers concluded that more scrutiny is required. (http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/163/11/978)
Your immune system and antibiotics
The immune system is your body’s natural defense mechanism against illness. It allows your body to fight against the invasion by bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungus etc. Taking antibiotics reduces the level of bacterial infection, but your immune system still has to completely finish fighting the infection. Once you have a particular infection, and your body fights it without the use of antibiotics, your immune system will develop ‘memory T cells’. The next time you contract the same infection, these memory T cells “remember” the previous infection and mounts an immediate immune response to fight it. With the use of antibiotics you are giving the responsibility of fighting infection to the antibiotics instead of your body’s immune system. So overtime, and with the overuse of antibiotics your immune system can become less effective.
Overuse of antibiotics results in “stronger” and resistant bacteria through mutation and natural selection. So new antibiotics have to be created to kill more and more resistant bacteria. But how long can this go on? Taking antibiotics too frequently, for too long, or not completing the course of antibiotics will result in increased resistance of bacteria by different mechanisms.
Chronic antibiotics use and candida/yeast
When we take an antibiotic its function is to kill bacteria but it usually cannot differentiate between ‘good bacteria’(such as lactobacillus sp.) and ‘bad bacteria’ in our gut. So unfortunately, along with killing ‘bad bacteria’ it also kills some good bacteria. ‘Good bacteria’ and ‘bad bacteria’ compete with each other for territory in your body. Common use of broad spectrum antibiotics can definitely disturb this balance. ‘Good bacteria’ help keep candida and bad bacteria at bay. Therefore losing good bacteria can cause various problems such as bloating, indigestion, diarrhea, increased yeast (candida) infection.
Take responsibility for your own health and trust your body’s capacity to fight the infection. Don’t think of antibiotics as the only solution, especially in minor colds. Work hard on making you immune system stronger so you won’t need antibiotics that often, or at all. Remember though, your doctor may need to prescribe them in some medical conditions.
See my blog about how to boost your immune system.