Antibiotics: The Good and the Bad

By: Sapna Fliedner MSN, HHC

For over 50 years, antibiotics have been used to conquer everything from pneumonia, meningitis, to post-nasal drip. But the over reliance on antibiotic drugs for benign conditions like coughs, colds, ear, throat and skin infections has caused severe strains of bacteria developing resistance to drugs which has a become a public health nightmare. According to the CDC, the rate of antibiotics use among children has jumped more than 48 percent since 1980. They are prescribed unneccessarily 70 percent of the time, and most of which are prescribed for viral upper-respiratory infections and colds in which antibiotics are useless. Misinformation can result in many patients prematurely visiting their physicans and expecting a prescription for antibiotics, when in fact it is really not needed and can result in devastating health problems later on in life. Due to pressure from misinformed parents, many physicians comply too frequently unaware of the downward spiral of health problems to come.

Although western medicine has made many advancements in crisis management, diagnosis, well-child assessments and in the assessing of serious life threatening illnesses that require hospitalization, the prevention of these illnesses along with patient education has clearly failed. Our society’s “pill that cures every ill” has gotten us into a never ending cycle of illness. Antibiotics can save lives when used appropriately; and in fact they save tens of thousands of lives every day. There are times when not taking antibiotics can be fatal, but even when used appropriately, antibiotics almost always damage the internal environment of the intestinal tract. We cannot continue to use antibiotics in the current way they are being used if we wish to have them as a life saving drug.

Antibiotics kill healthy bacteria in our intestines which are needed to protect us. There are hundreds of different species of beneficial bacteria in our small and large intestine that digest toxins from the blood. When antibiotics are used against “bad” bacteria, friendly bacteria are also damaged or killed which wreak havoc on our normal intestinal flora. The funny thing is that we actually become malnourished because by killing off all the friendly flora, we cannot efficiently transport nutrients into our blood even if our food is nutritious or take vitamins! The damage has been done. According to Leon Chaitow, N.D. D.O, author of “The Antibiotic Crisis”, this damage includes chronic digestive and bowel problems, increased risk of bladder infection, arthritic conditions, liver disease, menopausal symptoms, premenstrual symptoms (because friendly bacteria may not be able to perform their normal estrogen and progesterone recycling tasks), increased cholesterol levels, kidney disease, severly depressed immune function, acne, excema. Some researchers have gone as far as saying the chronic use of antibiotics causes colon cancer. Yes, I believe it. I think of antibiotics like mini doses of chemo. So when parents insist on antibiotics for viral coughs and colds, (which antibiotics don’t work against) this is what they are doing to their children just so that they can go back to work or put the child in daycare. (Many daycare facilities allow sick children on their premises as long as the child has been on antibiotics for 24 hours). These daycare facilities haven’t a clue on how to treat or prevent illness and the parents are blindfully heeding their advice unaware of the damage being done to their child.

Many of the bacteria are becoming increasingly drug resistant so that so that stronger antibiotics are required to control a wider range of potentially serious infections. This leads to more severe side effects, thus leaving the treatment more dangerous and more expensive. When you hear the term “superbug”, this means that there are bacteria that are not killed by many of the known antibiotics. These newer and stronger antibiotics created by scientists also become obsolete in the future. Also, the injection of antibiotics through the food chain namely beef, chicken, milk and eggs are creating  pathogenic bacteria that is seriously affecting our whole population.

Antibiotics change the pH in the gut that is conducive to fungal growth. This fungal growth leads to a serious condition called candida. Candida grows rapidly inhibiting the re-establishment of beneficial bacteria. Candida secretes a chemical which ruptures the cells lining the small intestine and allows toxins into the blood stream known as “Leaky gut syndrome”. Leaky gut allows for a steady stream of toxins back into the body and some researchers believe it is a contributing factor to asthma, chronic allergies, chronic infection and multiple food allergies (because foods are absorbed before they are completely digested and are labeled as foreign in the body’s immune system). (Jake Paul Franklin OMD)

Over the last 20 years the incidence of childhood allergy has risen dramatically. Allergies and excema are 5 times more prevalent today. According to Leon Chaitow N.D., D.O. author of “The Antibiotic Crisis,” In the first few days of birth, an infant’s gastrointestinal tract is colonized by friendly bacteria. Depending on whether you deliver vaginally or have a c-section, the amount of colonization differs vastly. For example, Bifidobacterium bifidum, a friendly bacteria was found in around 60 percent of four day old babies who had been born vaginally, but in only nine percent of babies born via c-section. Colostrum, the first milk a breastfed baby receives, comes important immune enhancing substances that help the babies defense systems to control bacteria such as E. Coli and encourage the colonization of the tract with Bifidobacterium bifidum. Infant fed formulas and cows milk do not contain the essential ingredients of breastmilk. But French researchers have recently discovered , by careful examination and research that breastfed babies today have a level of friendly bacteria similar to that found in formula fed babies 25 to 30 years ago. German researchers suggests these changes are due to pollution, mainly found in our water supply. High levels of polychloride dibenzo-P-dioxin and polychlorinated dibenzoflurans are now universally present, in high levels, in the breastmilk of every new mother. (Chaitow) This change has contributed to a six fold rise in the incidence of allergies. Formula fed babies have a greater chance of developing allergies than breastfed babies and while breastfed babies are still better protected, the gap is narrowing.

These toxic pollutants found in our water supply come from herbicides (weed killers) found on most vegetables and fruit, wood preservatives, chemicals used in paper products, garden and farm pesticides and garbage incineration smoke. Still, with all these pollutants found in breastmilk, breastfed babies are still healthier than bottle fed babies and have fewer allergies and infections.

To sum it up, if you bottle feed a child and then give the child unnecessary antibiotics, the child will not be able to fight off the infection, virus, or bacteria as the friendly bacteria are damaged, leaving the child’s immune system severely weakened, thereby getting more illnesses in a never ending cycle.

One of the world’s leading researchers for probiotics is Professor Rasic of the former Yugoslavia who believes that all babies should now be supplemented with B. infantis. This ensures a steady supply of friendly bacteria to the intestinal tract which allows these organisms to help the resident organisms to combat harmful bacteria. There is strong evidence to support the idea that babies and young children who have to take antibiotics should have a supplemental replenishment of bacteria during and after the course of antibiotics. This should be automatic every time antibiotics are used, since even a short course of antibiotics will damage the friendly flora. Infants must also never be given adult forms or strains of probiotics such as L.acidophilus without specific recommendation of a physician experienced in probiotics. These organisms produce too much lactic acid for the delicate infant digestive tract to handle (Chaitow).

We, as consumers have accepted cheap food production and quick fix drug-routes to health ignoring the consequences of these actions. If you pump antibiotics into animals and feed, you get food with huge levels of resistant food-poisoning potential. If you use antibiotics for children just in case of secondary bacterial infection, this results in a weakened immune system evolving in recurrent infections.

So what can we do about this?

  1. We can resist antibiotics until absolutely essential, empower ourselves by leading preventative health measures and inquiring about risks and alternatives involved.
  2. We can avoid food containing antibiotics and eat organic.
  3. Some alternatives I would suggest to enhance your immune system as to not catch every illness would be to take some natural antiviral and antibactial remedies: Raw garlic is probably one of the most effective antibacterial agent. In a 2009 issue of Prevention Magazine, one woman takes a clove a day and hasn’t become ill for 16 years! I have read countless stories similar to this. My daughter recently complained of a sore throat and I gave her a clove of garlic mixed in with some water and she drank this before bed. She woke up 11.5 hours later, fully refreshed and energized, forgetting that she had a sore throat the night before. Her body fought it off at night and she had no recurrences of a sore throat. ( If you have some sort of problem in your body, you will probably need 4-5 cloves). Another effective remedy is coconut oil. Coconut oil is an extremely powerful antibacterial agent with enormous health benefits. Take 2-3 tablespoons 2 times a day. In fact it is best to consume this everyday for ongoing prevention.
  4.  Some nutritional supplements could be added but I feel it is best to get most of your nutrients from food as they work synergistically. Most vitamins are synthetically made and this puts a huge amount of stress on your liver. With that being said, be careful if you do choose them. Look for whole foods on the label and some are beneficial especially if you have a serious problem and are deficient. Vit. B6, Vit. B12, Folate, Selenium and zinc have been known to offer many benenfits to severly depressed immune systems. For example, selenium protects cell wall integrity (bacteria and viruses infect the cell wall first then infect you). You may decide to choose to purchase the vitamin selenium but brazil nuts are extremely rich in selenium.
  5.  When faced with having to take antibiotics, we must replenish the flora in order to help detoxify the bowel, manufacture B vitamins and to keep yeast and bacteria in check. You should supplement with L. acidophilus (for the small intestine) and Bifidobacteria (for the colon). According to Dr. Chaitow, some guidelines and protocols for infants and young children would be the following: Only use the forms of Bifidobacteria for children, and the product should only contain one organism, not a cocktail. The container should state that the organism is meant for infants and or children. The organism is a human strain and the container is ideally made of dark glass. The product should be in powder form and not in liquid, or tablet form. If possible, the product should also contain some of the supernatant (the culture in which the organism was grown)-as this provides nutrition for the organism. The product should require refrigeration after opening and there is an expiration date clearly labled. There should be a statement as to the number of organisms per gram or other measurement and this number is guaranteed to be the case at the time of opening and not just at the time of manufacture of the product (guaranteed shelf life).

During and following a course of antibiotics, probiotics should be taken at least 3 times daily at separate times from the antibiotics. This should continue for at least one month after the end of the antibiotics course. An example of this is: Infants and toddlers use ¼ teaspoon Bifidobacterium infantis, 3 times a day. (Again, please consult your healthcare practitioner first).

There have been multiple studies in Northern Europe stating that children who have taken antibiotics for an ear infection were between 200 and 600 percent more likely to have recurrence with a second ear infection within 6 weeks than those who did not take antibiotics. They also found out that whether or not the child has taken antibiotics or not for ear infections, the child recovered at the same rate of recovery. In 80% of cases of acute otitis media in children, the condition resolves in 7 to 14 days without treatment and with observation compared with 95% of patients receiving antibiotic therapy. In cases of respiratory tract infections, most symptoms resolves in 7-10 days on their own. Green mucous is not an indication that antibiotics are needed. Nearly all people get better from bronchitis and sinusitis on their own without the use of antibiotics. In fact, researchers as far back as the late 1970’s, showed scientific evidence that revealed that children who had antibiotics for middle ear infections ususually did not benefit from them and soon got another infection. They also found out that 90% of the children recovered on their own using only painkillers and decongestant medications. We have known for a long time that the cost in pain and suffering to children due to antibiotic use is huge. Since many children receiving antibiotics subsequently receive another in 6 weeks, the cycle keeps repeating, until surgery is required. This cuts down on pain experienced, and may or may not reduce the frequency of ear infections. If this doesn’t reduce the frequency of ear infections it leads to more antibiotics being prescribed with more damage done to the digestive system and this increases the chance of resistant bacteria developing. Once you have resistant bacteria developing, the chances of developing pneumonia and fatal meningitis is high. In many European countries, many physicians prescribe a “watchful waiting” therapy. Over 50% of physicians in France and Germany use some form of natural medicine in their practice; homeopathy, herbs, or acupuncture. Some doctors now practice more conservatively, but they are in the minority while most feel pressure from misinformed patients demanding antibiotics.

The youngest victims are children. In a 1999 U.S. News and World Report, a young girl named Shaunna Littlejohn, 10, now blind and in a vegetative state due to drug resistant meningitis. Another small child, Christian Girata, 3, who contracted multi-drug resistant meningitis at 2 months and was left deaf. Adrianna Broadway, 14, who nearly died from a bloodstream infection and pneumonia when she was 2. Two year old Dalton contracted drug resistant bacterial meningitis and almost died. There are 100’s of more horror stories.

Prescribing rates for antibiotics continue to rise despite the documented evidence linking antibiotic use and health problems. Many physicians prescribe antibiotics “just in case” when there is evidence that the only time they should be prescribed is when a bacterial infection has been identified. A recent study of over 600 pediatricians reported requested antibiotics when they were not indicated. Nearly ¼ of parents asked for a specific drug and 1/3 of doctors admitted they had complied with parents. Doctors need to say no and stand their ground when an antibiotic is not needed. But they should also explain to the patient why the antibiotic isn’t necessary and to give them tips on how to take care of their illness with more alternatives. The parents should really listen and stop demanding unnecessary antibiotics as we are further damaging our children. We are killing our children with our impatience. This is due to many parents who work and and want antibiotics as a quick fix for their kids because most daycares and schools state that the child can come to school after 24 hours if they are on antibiotics. But at what price? So that the child can grow up and then get chronic digestive and bowel problems, bladder infections, arthritic conditions, liver and kidney diseases, acne, exema, a decrease in overall immune system and cancer? An even worse; drug resistant meningitis and pneumonia due to taking too many antibiotics in the first place. We must learn to go back to the source or our grandmother’s old ways. Rest, good nutrition and plenty of sunshine usually does the trick.

So when should you use antibiotics?
~ When there is an infection of bacterial origin which can cause further damage to your heart, eyes, chest and which is not responsive to gentler methods (herbs, nutrition, etc). Also when bacteria have entered the bloodstream, bone or major organs.

~Used in open wound trauma or surgery

~When the drum of the ear is bulging, caused by pressure of fluids, pus, etc.

Almost all throat, chest and sinus infection as well as flu and colds are of viral origin and are therefore totally unresponsive to antibiotics.

In conclusion, antibiotics save many lives and are useful in life threatening situations only. They can cause severe and unpredictable side-effects if they are used inappropriately. If we want to continue to use antibiotics for it’s life saving benefits, then we must stop using them the way they are being used now. Most importantly, your immune sytem can be truly enhanced by good nutrition.

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