Antibiotics are lifesaving drugs that have changed the world since their discovery. They have rendered trivial previously lethal childhood illnesses. But we know there are down sides to their use. World Antibiotic Awareness Week is an annual reminder that antibiotics are a gift that we need to use wisely and carefully, here are just two reasons why this is the case:
Every time we use antibiotics we kill off bad bacteria. But every so often one or two bad bacteria will be resistant to the antibiotic. They start to multiply and take over the space where the now dead bad bacteria lived. Soon after stronger antibiotics are needed to clear the resistant bacteria. After many years of this we are now finding bacteria that are resistant to all known antibiotics. If we are going to reserve our strongest antibiotics for when they are needed we have to stop using antibiotics as frequently. We know we prescribe antibiotics when they are often unnecessary, for cold and flu symptoms that will normally pass. This has to stop if we are going to avoid generating more and more resistant bacteria.
There are more good bacteria in your gut than there are cells in your body! These bugs perform essential functions like assisting with digestion and producing helpful vitamins such as vitamin B12. Did you know that human breast milk has molecules specifically designed to feed the newborn’s gut bacteria! Modern science is just starting to learn more about the microbiome but a number of long term conditions are now being linked with poor gut health.
Having antibiotics when you don’t need them will kill off your microbiome. It can be very difficult to repopulate your gut but if you are prescribed antibiotics you may wish to start probiotics and fermented foods which usually available from your local supermarket or health food store.
Your doctor is not “fobbing you off”!!
So next time your doctor or nurse recommends avoiding antibiotics it is not because we are just being awkward or wanting to fob you off, it’s because we have these things in mind. Of course, if any patient needs antibiotics we won’t hesitate to prescribe. And we always say that if your condition gets worse or if you have any concerns then let us know. Often bacterial infections take hold after a viral infection has weakened the body in some area – this is typical of bacterial tonsillitis. So even though antibiotics are not needed initially it is entirely appropriate that they are needed later on if a disease progresses.