Antibiotics – The Pros and Cons and How You Can Keep Your Health in Balance During Use
At some point in our life we’ve either had an infection, fallen ill or had surgery that has required a course of antibiotics. A few years ago we wouldn’t bat an eyelid at the prospect of heading to the doctors and walking out with a prescription for those ‘wonder pills’. But now, our doctors are reluctant to give us that little green slip for them. So why the change in attitude?
What are antibiotics and what are they used for?
An antibiotic is a substance that stops the growth of bacteria. When used in the right way, they quickly and effectively eliminate infections, helping us to feel better in a matter of days.
So when antibiotics are used in the correct way they can:
- slows the growth of and kills many types of infection
- in some cases, such as before surgery, antibiotics can prevent infection from occurring
- antibiotics are quick acting, with some working within a few hours of being taken
- most antibiotics are oral medications and therefore easy to take
However, there is resistance to antibiotic use and here’s why:
- there is mounting evidence that consuming antibiotics regularly and especially for minor infections, starts to create a resistance to the drug, making them less effective when we really need them
- the longer the course of treatment, the more damage can be done to the body’s immune system
- some antibiotics have side effects – mainly affecting digestion
There is a real worry that the historic taking of antibiotics has now placed our health at real risk. Not just from the threat of bacterial resistance but from the side effects of their abundant use.
Gut health and antibiotic use has been under the spotlight a lot recently. We have a rich culture of bacteria within our gut which helps with its function and keeps it in balance. The action of antibiotics is to kill ALL types of bacteria, good or bad. If the diversity of the gut ecosystem becomes depleted we begin to see a rise in chronic diseases.
What can we do to help protect our health?
- Firstly we must ask ourselves, do we really need a course of antibiotics? If we can avoid using it then lets do that and seek an alternative. Your GP will help you with this.
- If the GP has prescribed a course, ensure you complete the course, even if the symptoms have subsided. This is to ensure all the bacteria has been killed.
- If you have tablets left over, dispose of them at the pharmacy. DO NOT KEEP FOR LATER USE OR GIVE TO OTHER PEOPLE AND DO NOT DISPOSE OF DOWN THE DRAIN OR TOILET. This is toxic to the environment and further contributes to bacterial resistance.
- Take antibiotics with water rather than fruit juices or dairy products, which can all affect how the body absorbs the drug essentially making it less effective at doing its job.
- It is advised to take probiotics both during and for at least 4 weeks after antibiotic use which will help replenish any good bacteria lost during the course of the medication. It is recommended to take probiotics a few hours apart from the antibiotics to ensure that the two don’t cancel each other out.