Recovering from Antibiotic Use (or over-use?)…
18 March 2013
Antibiotics, it seems as if practically everyone is taking them now. Ironically, in developed countries such as the United States and Canada, the average child gets 10 to 20 courses of antibiotics by the time they reach age 18. Furthermore, studies have shown that doctors all too often prescribe antibiotics before they even know whether an infection is viral or bacterial. If the illness is due to a virus, antibiotics can’t and won’t help.
Antibiotics were introduced more than 50 years ago and at that time they were thought to be a cure all. However, recent studies show that antibiotic overuse doesn’t just lead to the emergence of drug resistant “superbugs;” it may also permanently wipe out the body’s beneficial bacteria.
Antibiotic treatment for colds and other viral illnesses not only doesn’t work, but it has also developed a dangerous side effect. Over time, this practice helps bad bacteria grow and even flourish becoming more of a challenge to kill because of their resistance to the drugs.
So it has been scientifically established that frequent and/or inappropriate treatment with antibiotics causes bacteria (and other microbes) to resist the effects of the treatment. So it has become common practice to treat these resistant bacteria with higher doses of medicine or stronger antibiotics. And, now we’ve reached a point where because of antibiotic overuse, certain bacteria have become resistant to many of the most powerful antibiotics available today.
This antibiotic (or bacterial) resistance is a widespread problem, and one that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls “one of the world’s most pressing public health problems.” Bacteria that were once highly responsive to antibiotics have become increasingly resistant. Among the many ailments and diseases that are becoming harder to treat are the “pneumococcal infections” (which are the cause of pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, and meningitis), plus many types of skin infections, and even tuberculosis.
So, let’s take a look at what an antibiotic really is?
- – Anti = “against”, “opposed to.”
- – Biotic = “pertaining to life”, “of or relating to living organisms.”
The word antibiotic comes from the Greek anti meaning ‘against’ and bios meaning ‘life’ (a bacterium is a life form).’ An antibiotic is also known as antibacterial, and as we all know antibiotics are drugs intended to be used to treat infections caused by bacteria.
But here’s the hitch; some bacteria are not harmful, and many are not only good for us, but necessary for our health and survival.
The ideal balance between the bacteria in your body is 85 percent good and 15 percent bad. This ratio between the “good” bacteria and the other bacteria is one of the critical factors determining your optimal health, as the good bacteria are essential for:
- – The proper development of your immune system
- – Protection against over-growth of other microorganisms that could cause disease
- – Digestion of food and absorption of nutrients
Antibiotics do not discriminate between good bacteria and bad. As a human being, you have three to four pounds of beneficial bacteria living within your intestines along with a variety of yeasts (including Candida). All these microbes compete for the nutrients in the food you eat. In a healthy organism, the strength in numbers that beneficial bacteria enjoy keeps the ever-present yeasts in check, which causes them to produce nutrients such as the B vitamins.
However, every time you ingest antibiotics, you kill off some of the beneficial bacteria in your intestines. As these good bacteria die, the delicate balance of your intestinal terrain is upset. Yeasts grow unchecked into large colonies and take over, becoming parasitic, in a condition called dysbiosis.
Research directed by the Human Microbiome Project (which aims to catalogue and understand the microorganisms that live in the body), has shown that a bacterial environment that’s out of balance in the esophagus, stomach and intestines leads to inflammation, causing undue changes in cells that are suspected to be contributing to rises in other chronic health conditions such as obesity, asthma, and cancer.
Now on to probiotics…
- – Pro = “for”, “in favor of.”
- – Biotic = “pertaining to life”, “of or relating to living organisms.”
The word probiotic is a composite of the Latin preposition pro (“for”) and the Greek adjective (biotic), the latter derived from the noun bios (“life”).
The probiotics in your stomach and intestines play an important role in helping numerous functions throughout the body, such as:
- – Digesting and absorbing certain nutrients and carbohydrates.
- – Producing vitamins, assisting the body in absorbing minerals and eliminating toxins.
- – Keeping bad bacteria in check.
- – Preventing allergies…These friendly bacteria train your immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens, and to respond appropriately.
- – Providing essential support to your immune system. These beneficial bacteria have a lifelong, powerful effect on both your gut’s immune system, and your systemic immune system as well.
One Washington University professor compared the functioning of this intestinal microflora in your body to that of an “ant farm that works together as an intelligence to perform an array of functions you’re unable to manage on your own.”
Natural Ways to Get Probiotics?
In the distant past and continuing today, people have used (and still use) fermented foods like sauerkraut to support their digestive health, as these foods are rich in naturally beneficial bacteria.
Fermented foods have been part of nearly every traditional culture. As far back as Roman times, people ate sauerkraut, not only because they liked its taste but because of benefits to overall health. In Asian cultures, pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash and carrots still exist today.
If you were to eat a diet rich in unprocessed fermented foods that have NOT been pasteurized (which kills the probiotics), then you will likely enjoy great digestive health.
On the other hand, if you eat a lot of processed foods or rely on mostly cooked foods, the balance of bacteria in your digestive tract will have a hard time remaining at an optimal level. Sugar is also an incredibly efficient fertilizer for growing bad bacteria and harmful yeasts in your intestinal tract, so if you indulge in a lot of it you’re fueling the bad bacteria. In addition to taking antibiotics, stress, pollution and other environmental factors can further upset the balance in a negative way.
Since helpful bacteria are increasingly absent in most people’s diets, it is important to purposely include foods that contain live probiotic bacteria in your diet, or take a good probiotic supplement.
Make your own Probiotics…
*Excerpted from “The Colon Health Handbook” by Robert Gray
“Cabbage is a vegetable that is teeming with lactobacteria. No starter is needed for making rejuvelac. Just start one morning by blending together 1 3/4 cups (420ml) distilled or purified water plus 3 cups (720ml) coarsely chopped, loosely packed fresh cabbage. Start the blender at low speed and then advance the blender to high speed and blend for 30 more seconds. Pour into a jar, cover, and let stand at room temperature for 3 days. At this time, strain off the liquid rejuvelac. The initial batch of cabbage rejuvelac takes 3 days to mature, but succeeding batches take 24 hours each.
“Each morning after straining off the fresh rejuvelac, blend together for 30 seconds at high speed 1 1/2 cups (360ml) distilled or purified water plus 3 cups (720ml) coarsely chopped, loosely packed fresh cabbage. Pour into a jar, add 1/4 cup (60ml) of the fresh rejuvelac just strained off, cover, shake and let stand at room temp. until the next morning.
“You can also make cabbage rejuvelac without a blender by chopping the cabbage very fine and using 2 1/2 cups (600ml) finely chopped, loosely packed cabbage listed above. The amount of distilled or purified water used should remain unchanged.
“Good quality rejuvelac tastes similar to a cross between carbonated water and the whey obtained when making yogurt. Bad quality rejuvelac has a much more putrid odor and taste and should not be consumed. Always avoid using tap water when making rejuvelac because chlorine has been added to it for the purpose of killing bacteria of any kind.
“Drink each day’s rejuvelac during the course of the day by taking 1/2 cup (120ml) 3x a day, preferably with meals.”
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