There’s a dark side to Antibiotics that’s now emerging decades after their revolutionary introduction
Until the 1940’s bacterial infections had been the leading causes of mortality for much of our existence; A small cut – if infected – could often result in death. With the introduction the first anti-biotics our lives have changed dramatically – our life expectancy in the west has almost doubled in the last century.
However since anti-biotics were first prescribed nearly 75 years ago we’ve reached a stage where these drugs are routinely over-prescribed and are often unnecessary – and at an alarming cost that scientists are only now beginning to understand.
Chronic diseases reaching epidemic proportions
Prior to the 1950’s a whole range of chronic diseases – from obesity, parkinsons, autism, diabetes and even common allergies were largely unheard of.
Today these conditions are widespread affecting our family, friends, colleagues and children and now reaching epidemic proportions.
While a hugely complex field that we are only just beginning to understand – scientists are in agreement that the link is in the gut – and that our modern sanitized lifestyles, poor diets and overuse of antibiotics are to blame.
“It is only in the last decade that scientists have come to appreciate the critical role of our forgotten organ – the beneficial bacteria or microbiota living inside us – in maintaining our health and combatting disease, through controlling pathogens (harmful bacteria), and communicating with our immune system.”
These bacteria believed to number 100 trillion – outnumber our own cells 10:1 and help in functions ranging from regulating our digestion, protecting against infection to even producing vitamins and nutrients we depend upon.
The effect of modern living on our friendly bacteria
Our changing lifestyles are dramatically altering our gut bacterial ecosystem – significantly reducing the diversity of these beneficial bacteria living inside us – and with huge consequences.
The widespread use of vaccines and antibiotics in farming and healthcare – the rising use of formula feeding in infancy and cesarean section birth delivery, even our everyday use of disinfectants and sanitzers – is all reducing the diversity of ‘good’ bacteria we inherit and cultivate – and giving rise to the pathogens (or bad bacteria) that harm us.
We are increasingly seeing our immune systems turn against us and rising allergic diseases – contributing to epidemics such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression and autism to name a few.
Many studies link long-term antibiotic use to problems ranging from IBS, depressed immunity, higher stress levels, behavior problems and obesity.
One Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found 71 percent of children who suffered inflammation of the colon caused by a specific pathogen (c. difficile) received numerous courses of antibiotics for respiratory, ear and nose illnesses 12 weeks before infection.
Another study in The American Society for Microbiology found a single-weeks course of antibiotics could adversely affect the gut bacteria for a year or more
So should we be taking antibiotics?
Antibiotics can be vital to fight many infections. We depend on them to treat common ailments in many aspects of our lives. There are even grave concerns for our future well being in an advancing era where new strains of harmful bacteria develop resistance to the antibiotic drugs we rely upon.
However we must be aware of the unintended consequences to our health from each course prescribed and assess whether they are absolutely necessary in each case.
And when we need to take them we should focus on gut repair afterwards – by consuming beneficial bacteria (or probiotics) and beneficial nutrients (prebiotics) to help rejuvenate our gut flora.
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