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‘A’ is for Antibiotics.

In 1993 I read a book that changed my life. It was called ‘Beyond Antibiotics – 50 ways to boost Immunity and avoid Antibiotics’.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-antibiotics. They saved my life when I was three years old and suffered from Nephritis. My Mother, who was a Nurse, always said that I would not be here were it not for antibiotics, so I owe them a debt of gratitude.

In 1993 I read a book that changed my life. It was called ‘Beyond Antibiotics – 50 ways to boost Immunity and avoid Antibiotics’.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-antibiotics. They saved my life when I was three years old and suffered from Nephritis. My Mother, who was a Nurse, always said that I would not be here were it not for antibiotics, so I owe them a debt of gratitude.

In medicine and health, as in all other areas of life, each choice we make comes with consequences. The purpose of this post is not to suggest that antibiotics are “bad” and we should never take them. As I said in the beginning of the article, antibiotics save lives and have significantly lengthened our lifespans. But that benefit has come with a price, and it’s one that we’re only just beginning to understand the full implications of. I deal with the effects of antibiotics in my patients every day. And there are times when I tell them that they should take antibiotics, and deal with the damage afterwards.

Back to the book; when I read the first few pages, there were three salient points that hit me like a hammer:

  1. Children with strep throat recovered after antibiotics but rates of reinfection for were between two and eight times more than if not treated with antibiotics.
  2. Children of Naturopathic doctors had far fewer illnesses than children of Allopathic doctors.
  3. Antibiotics altered gut flora giving rise to a variety of gut issues, many long term.

Now all of these points had relevance for my health. I suffered from repeated infections as a child, leading to repeated rounds of antibiotics, seemingly a never ending cycle. And I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) from when I was a young child continuously until I was about thirty five years old, when I managed to figure it out for myself. That is kind of how I got into this business on a personal level.

While the development of antibiotics has lengthened our lifespans, our excessive and inappropriate use of these drugs may be causing serious long-term consequences of which we are only now becoming fully aware. And antibiotic use in pregnant Mothers may be adversely affecting the microbiome of their offspring, also leading to long term health issues.

Recent studies have also shown that minimal use of antibiotics can wipe out a third of the species in the gut, some never to return, and can also open the gut to colonisation by pathogenic strains such as Clostridium difficile, which became a very problematic bug in British hospitals recently.

Antibiotics are known to cause diarrhoea, which may be due to infection by antibiotic resistant pathogens such as salmonella, C. perfringens type A, Staphylococcus aureus, and possibly Candida albicans, as well the various metabolic consequences of reduced concentrations of faecal flora.

Patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are found to have lower populations of beneficial Lactobacillus and Bifdobacteria species, which protect against pathogenic bacteria, and help to reduce inflammation in the gut.

A fascinating, if icky, area of research is that of faecal implants for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) sufferers. Faecal implants (yes it is exactly what it sounds like) from healthy donors are used to recolonise the guts of IBD sufferers. Initial results are promising.

Though antibiotics may be necessary in certain situations, it’s important to weigh the benefits of using them with the potential risks that may come from the semi permanent alteration of the gut flora. If antibiotics must be used (and there are certainly situations where this is the case), special care should be taken to not only restore the gut flora using probiotic foods and supplements, but to eat a diet that supports a healthy gut microbiome.

A great natural antibiotic to use is Lactoferrin, and it is especially kind and effective in the gut. It boosts immunity in mucosal membranes and also throughout the body, and there are 1800 scientific papers on its effectiveness.

If you are looking to repopulate the gut after antibiotics, it is a numbers game so very high doses are better than lower doses. Try Custom Probiotics CP-1, at up to 98 billion bacteria per capsule, it is a winner!