Many of us are now aware that some things are better for our microbiota than others, and to varying degrees. Antibiotics and laxatives, as well as medications against fever and pain, contraceptive hormones (The Pill), or those to alleviate menopausal symptoms all negatively affect gut flora composition. Antibiotics when prescribed responsibly are obviously life saving. They have saved countless lives and wiped out many diseases. But, there’s a price to pay for everything, and in this case the over- use of antibiotics has gotten us into some serious strife.
These days however, it’s pretty hard to avoid them. Even if you’re a raw food vegan who’s never sick, you’re still likely to be exposed to antibiotics. 80% of the antibiotics manufactured world wide are for animals for food, so we’re constantly being exposed to antibiotics, every time we eat or drink, as the manure your veggies are grown with comes from animals that have been fed antibiotics. Antibiotics are in our food and in our water.
Studies are showing that small amounts of antibiotics given regularly, is a whole lot worse than one big hit when you’re sick and you actually need them. Antibiotics are not meant for prevention, but it is a billion dollar industry, so making changes to the system is, well, tricky.
It’s encouraging to see that more and more conscious farmers are using herbs and essential oils like oregano oil to replace expensive and damaging antibiotics that are so commonly and mindlessly used in commercial farming. The over-use of antibiotics both for us and in our food is destroying our gut flora, reduces immunity, increases anxiety and depression and keeps us susceptible to everything. Not to mention the damage they’re doing to our animals and our planet.
So far, western medicine’s answer has been to prescribe yet more drugs, so that now we have arrived in a scary place called ‘antibiotic resistant’. This is now at crisis levels, meaning some infections are becoming untreatable. What we’ve basically done is coat our world in a bubble of antibiotics by our overuse and inappropriate use of them. And antibiotic use is in Australia, which directly affects the development of antibiotic resistance.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), is a type of staph’ that has developed resistance to a family of antibiotics similar to penicillin. When we take an antibiotic, the drug kills many bacteria, but a few survive. These surviving bacteria are now resistant to that antibiotic, and then they multiply. What this means is, every time a patient takes an antibiotic, he or she is creating more drug-resistant bacteria. The growing number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria poses a very serious and immediate threat to our health as a species. In 1974, MRSA infections accounted for 2% of the total number of staph infections; in 1995 it was 22%; in 2004 it was 63%. These bacteria were once mainly found in hospitals, doctor’s surgeries and nursing homes, but recently they’ve been showing up in gyms, schools, sports clubs, and other places where people are in close contact.
Two-thirds of the children today have already taken a course of antibiotics by the time they are 12 months old. Antibiotics have been shown to affect the childhood microbiome causing changes associated with allergies, obesity and autism – three of the biggest childhood issues in developed countries. This means long-term health implications for these children. While this link is still being researched, the evidence is mounting.
Bacterial infections need antibiotics, as the infection will only get worse, if it’s not treated. Examples of serious infections that arguably need antibiotics under one year of age are meningitis, whooping cough, pneumonia, infection in the blood and urinary infections. Antibiotics are ineffective for common viral infections however, so treating these with antibiotics results in none of the benefits and all of the disadvantages. These include most respiratory infections – for example of the ear, throat and chest, yet we are still constantly being prescribed antibiotics for these conditions. There are many effective alternatives to synthetic antibiotics. Herbal medicine and essential oils have both undergone much research and the results are exciting.
A recent British report estimated that antibiotic and microbial resistance could kill an extra 10 million people a year and cost up to $100 trillion USD by 2050 if it is not brought under control, and soon.
Btw, scientists often modify seeds using antibiotic-resistant genes in the genetic engineering process. Some people wonder if there’s a link between these GM Frankenfoods and the ever increasing rates of antibiotic resistant bacteria.