The modern individual cannot even begin to fathom a time when a slight fever, difficulty swallowing, soreness and pain in the throat were symptoms that could not be treated or could even lead to death. In our modern time we have reaped the benefits of one of the greatest medical advances in the twentieth century, the discovery and application of antibiotics. It was termed the wonder drug due to its ability to quickly and effectively destroy bacteria and infectious diseases.
Antibiotics quickly rose in the medical field its production skyrocketed from two million pounds in 1954 to over 50 million pounds today. The vast change in numbers is not an indication of the increased demand due to a higher population, instead it is the indication of the clear abuse and overuse of the wonder drug. This practice is a combination of nonchalant doctors who administer antibiotics left and right, to the individual who demands a prescription for cases as small as the common cold.
The problem with using antibiotics for every little thing is that the medication is an anti-bacterial, meaning that it kills or inhibits the growth of bacteria. So when you have something like the cold or flu, antibiotics are useless. And when you do have a bacterial infection, the negative effects of antibiotics usually outweigh the positive results.
Our overenthusiasm for antibiotics has led to many problems, both internally and externally. To start off, take a look at the medication’s label. The listing of side effects are near endless as well as fatal. Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, blood clotting, and blindness are all just side effects that barely scrape the surface of what is wrong with antibiotics. Of course the chances of succumbing to these side effects are slim, but why take the risk? The presence of such ailments are an indicative of the adverse effects that are bombarding you on a cellular, chemical and microscopic level.
Antibiotics are bacteria fighters. They can be categorized into two major classes:
- Narrow-spectrum antibiotics: effective against a select class of organisms
- Broad-spectrum antibiotics: effective against a wide range of organisms
These antibiotics are synthesized in labs and work by either killing the afflicting bacterium or by inhibiting the growth of the bacteria. While effective in their line of work, the medical field is experiencing a phenomena that was not fully predicted when antibiotics were first put to use. The overuse and subsequent abuse of antibiotics were creating strains of resistant bacteria that were more powerful and harmful to our bodies. Not only that, but in the race to rid our bodies of harmful invaders, antibiotics are starting to display lack of prejudice and are killing the good bacteria in our bodies as well.
Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria
Antibiotic resistant infections are an ongoing and explosive plague that affects both the global and US health care. At the same time, we’re experiencing a hair-raising decline in the research and development of new antibiotics to deal with these new threats. Infectious bacteria become resistant to antibiotics by simply modifying or altering their genetic make-up, thus masking themselves completely invisible to the antibiotic. When the antibiotic does not recognize this new strain, it does not kill it, leading to the development of unmanageable pathogenic microorganisms and the increase of mortality rates. We are living in the midst of an unstoppable evolutionary development of infectious diseases and there is very little decision making or action being made to stop it.
The global spread of microbial resistance is primarily a result of antibiotic abuse. We use antibiotics in everything from medical purposes to cleaning products and to our livestock. In hospitals alone, 190 million doses of antibiotics are administered each day. In comparison, general practitioners administer about 133 million courses of antibiotics every year. It is estimated that about 50% of these prescriptions are unnecessary and ineffective because they are being administered for colds, coughs and other viral infections. The other half is hoarded by patients who do not finish the full dosage and use it at a later time to fight another bacterial infection, or leaves some bacteria alive in their system and allows the microbes to develop immunity to any future antibiotic treatment. A study discovered that patients who underwent a full course of antibiotics were found to have an increase of Candida infections after treatment. The other part of the antibiotic solution is its potency. Antibiotics are so powerful and effective in their job of killing off bacteria that only the strongest will survive, subsequently the strongest are also the ones that become sufficiently resistant against most forms of medical treatment.
Other uses of antibiotics have focused on the administration of the drug to our agricultural animals. Of the 50 million pounds of antibiotics that are produced today, at least half is designated for human consumption, while the rest is given to animals. Antibiotics are administered to fight bacterial infections among livestock and also stimulate growth or hormone production. Because there exists no regulations or guidelines in the usage of antibiotics for livestock, most of our agricultural animals are given excessive doses, resulting in the accumulation of antibiotics in the bloodstream which is then secreted into meat and milk that is meat for human consumption. Additionally, antibiotics are delivered in aerosol form in an effort to prevent bacterial infections, but it only succeeds in developing resistant bacteria that later proliferate and populate onto food that is eaten by humans. Through the foods that we eat we are exposed to excessive amounts of antibiotics as well as bacteria that is resistant to conventional forms of treatment.
Antibiotics and Intestinal Microflora
The advent of broad-spectrum antibiotics has created a substance that holds on bias in the war against bacteria in your system. This means that while it attacks the bad bacteria, it also upsets the delicate community of beneficial bacteria in your intestine as well. Following therapeutic usage of antibiotics, the body undergoes both short and long term impacts.
The short term effect of many antibiotics includes the significant changes in microflora in the intestine. The introduction of such harmful substances leads to the disappearance of sensitive but essential microorgranisms. It also affects the body’s already developed anti-bacterial abilities, completely voiding it of such traits and making the immune system entirely reliant on the antibiotics. Other immediate effects also includes the bodies decreased ability to metabolize and process certain lipid and carbohydrate structures that are part of consumption and the regulation of fat storage, this is in part due to the loss of beneficial bacteria that are usually charged with these tasks. It’s because of this loss of beneficial bacteria that we often feel sick or experience side effects from antibiotic usage. Generally, after treatment is complete, these friendly microorganisms return to the intestine. Some however, not so lucky.
We are learning, quite recently that there exists long term, harrowing effects of antibiotics use. The primary being the absolute loss or inability to repopulate friendly bacteria that is essential for our systems. Because broad-spectrum antibiotics holds no prejudice, many of our beneficial bacteria is lost during treatment due to the potency of the substances being administered. Individuals can live their entire lives feeling sickly or unwell, all because an antibiotic they took as a child destroyed essential bacteria in their systems that never recovered thus rendering them void of its potential benefits.
Reversing the Effects of Antibiotics
It’s no surprise that the mark of modern ailments such as digestive problems, skin infections, and nutrition deficiency exist around the same time as the advent and application of antibiotics. While it is in fact a miracle of modern medicine, its overuse and application has led to it becoming the miracle of destruction. Decimating our systems from the inside-out and significantly increasing the development of resistant bacteria. The explosive effects of antibiotics can be suppressed or maybe even reversed if more patients and individuals become more self-aware of its harmful effects and minimize its usage.
Antibiotics should not be seen as a cure-all, it was specifically designed for the killing of harmful bacteria and as such should be used accordingly. Antibiotics should also be the final course of action when an infection is at hand. Our bodies and the beneficial bacteria within our intestine provide powerful anti-microbial properties without the cascading negative effects. We should use our natural resources to our advantage before potentially destroying them completely.
Probiotics are also a great source or solution of beneficial bacteria that either provides the same anti-microbial properties or promotes the growth of bacteria that work in a similar fashion. Available in many different foods and dietary supplements, Probiotics is the healthier and safer alternative to restoring not only digestive health but promoting a strong and hearty immune system. Probiotics are also helpful in deterring the nasty side effects of antibiotics; studies have shown that among 12,000 men and women who took antibiotics along with probiotics were 42% less likely to develop diarrhea. Probiotics also help to stimulate the repopulation of beneficial bacteria that is lost during antibiotic treatment and can also help to balance the onslaught of harmful bacteria that may try to proliferate in the gut.
Always know your options, and recognize your body’s ability to treat itself. The fittest of our civilization have survived deadly plagues, epidemics and infections overr the course of thousands of years and they didn’t have antibiotics to thank for that.
Photo credit cavin @ Creative Commons – http://www.flickr.com/photos/-cavin-/