People are often prescribed broad spectrum antibiotics by conventional doctors because this will treat whatever bacteria is causing the symptoms. This will also bulldoze through any other bacteria that gets in its way. That sounds fantastic, right? A big clean up job? Nope, not all bacteria are problematic, in fact, it’s more problematic to not have bacteria in your body! For your body to function, you need the millions and millions of GOOD bacteria, which will also be wiped out by the broad-spectrum antibiotics.
So, why do doctors continue to prescribe these? We need to remember that ‘healthcare’ is an extremely profitable business and unfortunately, sick people are big money-makers in the industry. Not only this, but it is profit over people in every aspect, so they will cut costs where possible. To work out the specific bacteria the patient would require further investigation, this costs money. So, why not prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics and just wipe it all out?
What Does This Mean For Our Health?
We are facing a massive crisis in our national health service due to the widespread use of antibiotics. Antibiotics have been overused and are becoming more and more prevalent in our foods, such as meat and dairy. Therefore, antibiotic resistance is becoming a serious issue.
To be clear, I don’t think antibiotics shouldn’t exist. We need antibiotics for serious infections – they are completely lifesaving and without them so many people would needlessly die.
However, the overconsumption of antibiotics, as prescribed by doctors, for minor health concerns, PLUS the fact most prescriptive antibiotics are broad-spectrum, means that people are experiencing antibiotic-resistance and therefore are not responding to the medication. This is a huge problem for medicine because there aren’t endless ‘back-ups’. We’re running out of solutions for when we need them most, because we’re using them when we don’t need them at all.
Moreso, when antibiotics are taken when they’re not required and the course isn’t finished, or people take antibiotics intermittently, antibiotic-resistant strains of infectious bacteria can be created. Infections want to survive and proliferate, so if you give them chance, they will find a way! This means that many more people are being infected with antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, which are far harder to treat.
Additionally, antibiotics can lead to a long, long list of side effects. Do you ever stop to read that thick booklet of instructions and side effects that come with your prescription? A lot of the times they describe the symptoms: nausea, constipation, diarrhoea etc. But what is going on underneath?
Antibiotics disrupts the gut flora, which is a carefully balanced microbiome full of good bacteria that helps your body function optimally. You guys know how important your gut health is for your overall health, and if you don’t yet, you must be new, so I suggest you have a scroll – your gut is the foundation of your health!!
The disruption of your gut flora can lead to excessive growth of other pathogenic organisms like candida. The reason for this is that antibiotics are anti-bacterial, not anti-fungal. So, once you start wiping out the bacteria in the gut, you begin to leave a lot of space for yeast to flourish.
Antibiotics can also lead to gut-dysbiosis, which is abnormal strains of bacteria growing and an imbalance of bad bacteria to good bacteria in the gut.
Further, antibiotic use can lead to leaky gut. Leaky gut is where the tight junctions of the intestinal wall lining is loosened, allowing bacteria, toxins and other molecules that have no business getting into the rest of your body to find their way into your bloodstream. This is likely the reason for the various links between antibiotics and conditions such as asthma and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and autoimmune diseases.
Sorry, we’re not done yet. Antibiotics will negatively impact your immune system. Wiping out your gut flora can lead to abnormal functioning of white blood cells (which are the foundations of your immune system). Do you get infections easily? If so, you need to draw your attention to your gut health as 70%+ of your immune system is in your digestive tract.
The irony is that you’re taking antibiotics to get rid of an infection, but just by doing so you are making yourself more susceptible to a future infection. If you take antibiotics to treat the next infection, this vicious cycle is only going to get worse.
What Do We Do If We Have an Infection?
Medicine has told us that infections don’t go away on their own. If your immune system is not strong enough, this is true. But what they don’t tell us is that antibiotics aren’t the only way to overcome infections, because it makes them £0 profit (and frankly, medical doctors weren’t taught about this in medical school either so it’s not your GP’s fault!).
It is more important than ever to look for natural alternatives to antibiotics. There are LOADS of foods, herbs and spices that are anti-microbial by nature, and can be used without the consequence of antibiotic-resistance and health-altering side effects. I have a post on some of my favourites coming soon! But remember that building the immune system up is absolutely essential if you want to get to the root cause. How to do this? Start by optimising gut health as that is the only way to build a strong immune system.
What About Probiotics?
Unfortunately, most people think that just taking a probiotic after a course of antibiotics will reverse the damage that was done, but completely reversing this is near impossible. The microbiota is so complex, it’s incredibly difficult to restore it to its original state. Does this mean that you can’t heal your gut after taking antibiotics? Of course not, in fact, this is the first thing you should think about doing to boost your immune system and protect yourself from a further infection!
I took many antibiotics as a child as I was always sick, and we didn’t know any better. I also have worked with many clients who have been on strong and long courses of antibiotics and build their gut health back up. This takes time and bringing back the diversity that you once had is unlikely to fully happen, but you can get close with dedication!
Rebuilding The Gut
If you have been on a course of antibiotics, no matter how short it may have been, I highly recommend working with an integrative health practitioner, whether that is myself or anybody else that you trust, to work to rebuild your gut health. We can help you run and interpret functional lab test results to see the impact that the antibiotics have had on your gut, and therefore tailor a bespoke protocol to you to start healing your gut and rebalancing and diversifying your microbiome.
I understand this isn’t’ financially viable for everyone, and therefore I recommend following the GI Protocol as this will cover all bases and help you heal, rebalance, and rebuild your gut health. If you have been on any antibiotics, this really is non-negotiable! If you’re not feeling the negative effects of the antibiotics now, you will in the future.
The Bottom Line
There is a time and place for antibiotics, as they are lifesaving for certain conditions. However, we need to educateourselves more, as they are being criminally overprescribed and overused.