Antibiotics: How They Do Damage
Bacteria were among the first life forms to appear on Earth, and are present in most habitats on the planet. Bacteria inhabit soil, water, acidic hot springs, radioactive waste, and even in the deep portions of the earth's crust. Bacteria also live in plants, animals, including humans, and have survived in outer space. Bacteria are engineered for survival.
Antibiotics May Be Life-Saving
Antibiotics are medications used to treat infections caused by bacteria. If used appropriately, antibiotic therapy can be life-saving. Pathogenic or harmful bacteria may cause deadly infections such as tetanus, typhoid fever, diphtheria, syphilis and leprosy.
Most upper respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold and sore throats are generally caused by viruses. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses.
The vast majority of bacteria are either harmless or beneficial, only few are harmful. The body's immune system contains special white blood cells that can usually destroy many of the pathogenic bacteria that infect us. There are occasions, however, when the type or amount of bacteria is too much for our defenses and some help is needed from antibiotics.
There are beneficial bacteria that form part of the human flora and reside either on the surface or in deep layers of the skin, in saliva, oral and vaginal mucosa, on the surface of the eye, and within the gastrointestinal tracts. They adhere to healthy cells and prevent pathogenic bacteria and other organisms, like fungi, from attaching and causing infections. Bacteria are even required for the production of vitamin K within our bodies.
Antibiotics Weaken Our Defenses
Antibiotic use not only kills the pathogenic bacteria, it obliterates the good bacteria as well. This leaves us susceptible to invasion by many types of pathogens present in our environment, including more harmful bacteria, parasites and fungi.
Antibiotics Cause Resistance
When we use antibiotics or even antibacterial hand sanitizers, any surviving bacteria will pass on their resistance to their offspring, resulting in resistant strains. This renders later use of this antibiotic, ineffective against the surviving bacteria and their offspring for all future generations. For this reason, infections acquired in a hospital are usually difficult to treat.
Antibiotics Are Overused
There is concern worldwide that antibiotics are being overused. Antibiotic overuse is a factor that contributes to the growing number of resistant bacterial infections. In the United States, according to an estimate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year US $1.1 billion is spent on unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions just for adult upper respiratory infections alone. These prescriptions also accelerate the development of resistance to important antibiotic therapies.
What We Can Do?
Reserve the use of antibiotics for the more serious bacterial infections.
Limit the use of antibiotics in cases of viral infections like the common cold or flu.
Use soap and water to wash hands, not antibacterial hand sanitizers.
Delay the administration of antibiotics in cases of ear infections, fevers, upper respiratory infections, etc. until absolutely necessary.
Try natural remedies like honey, garlic and cinnamon powder or colloidal silver first. These are all known to possess antibacterial and antiviral properties.
As soon as you complete your round of antibiotic therapy, start a course of probiotics, preferably containing Lactobacillus acidophilus among other strains
The Gleaner , Monday | July 15, 2013