When you or someone you love is sick, whether from the flu or bronchitis or any number of illnesses, the most pressing thought is towards recovering as fast and as fully as possible.
In the battle against the bug, antibiotics have often been the sword with which to vanquish the microscopic beasties. Even those people that hold out against using medication and let their own immune systems attempt to triumph often succumb to the perceived “instant cure” that antibiotics seem to offer. What they don’t realize is that many of those who fall sick, take antibiotics, and then promptly recover, would have recovered even had they not taken antibiotics and just waited a few more days. We tend to self-diagnose, often incorrectly, and seek the cure before confirming the cause of the illness. Bronchitis, for example, can be caused by both bacteria and viruses.
Antibiotics not only go after the bad bacteria but the good bacteria as well. We have natural bacteria in our guts that help regulate digestion, safeguard immunity and even help maintain our weight. Much of this good bacteria is destroyed alongside the bad when we take antibiotics. A good suggestion is to begin a round of probiotics immediately following any necessary use of antibiotics. This will help to replenish the good bacteria destroyed by the antibiotics that are so important you your health. Taking a daily probiotic either way is often highly recommended.
The biggest problem with antibiotics has been and still is their over-prescription. They are often prescribed for illnesses that are entirely viral based, such as the flu and colds, making the antibiotics nothing more than placebos against these infections. It is reported that over 30 percent of prescribed antibiotics are unnecessary.
Many people don’t understand that antibiotics do not work against viruses. As the name implies, antibiotics work against bacteria, not viruses. Like most living things, bacteria also evolve and as antibiotics kill off the susceptible colonies, resistant colonies expand to fill the space left behind. The more antibiotics are used, the faster the spread of more resistant colonies. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 2 million people every year become infected by bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics in the United States. Of those, 23,000 people die from these infections.
But why do doctors, who surely are aware of the consequences of this scenario, over-prescribe antibiotics? There is a two-fold answer to this perplexing question.
- Patient Expectation. Americans have been programmed to go to the doctor, pick up a prescription, and get better from what ails them. They look to the antibiotic as the elixir of health, and one that will quickly get rid of their, or their children’s, nasty cough and runny nose. They are concerned about missing work or school and prod doctors into prescribing antibiotics so the illness doesn’t “get worse.” In the process, they are contributing to the growing number of resistant bacteria and to the decline of their own beneficial bacteria that lives in their intestine and keeps yeast in check.
- Doctor Concern. It is not always easy to detect the difference between a viral or bacterial infection. Usually, a bacterial infection will result in a higher fever or one that gets worse instead of better after a few days, but not always. To play it safe, some doctors will prescribe an antibiotic either way hoping that the cause of the illness is bacteria related. However, with the growing awareness of the downfalls in this treatment strategy, fewer doctors are falling prey to this easy way out.
A better solution to help keep you and yours healthy is to build up your immune system and allow it to do a better and more efficient job at fighting off infection. This is done through proper diet, exercise, getting enough sleep, reducing stress and staying hydrated. Another important step is making sure you nervous system (which controls your immune function) is working at an optimum level through chiropractic care. It’s always amazing to see how much healthier people are when they are under chiropractic care.
Of course there is a need at times for antibiotics and they have likely saved many lives around the world since their creation. However, the speed of bacterial evolution caused by over-prescription of antibiotics is currently outstripping the speed with which new antibiotics are developed, which will lead to a catastrophic epidemic of untreatable superbugs. More sensible prescription and more appropriate use of antibiotics is essential but simply living a healthier lifestyle to help avoid the need for antibiotics is crucial.