Antibiotics – The Pros and Cons

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.

The Pro’s

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

The Con’s

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.


Could Alternative Therapies Be The Answer To Your Women’s Health Issues.

Last month I met the lovely Olivia Shaw for a coffee and chat to discuss the benefits of alternative medicine and women’s health. Read the interview I did with her below:

Olivia Shaw BSc MSc MATCM MRCHM- Practitioner of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine


Tell me a bit about yourself and the work you do?

I came to Chinese medicine as a second career after working as a lawyer in the City. I enjoyed it and worked with really nice people, but I had a constant feeling that I was in the wrong profession and should be following a different path. It took me some time to work out what I wanted to do, but after a lucky meeting with an acupuncturist I had a course of treatment and found myself signing up to study for a three year BSc degree in Acupuncture. I qualified in 2005 and after a year setting up and establishing my practice (at the time in North London), I returned to university the following year and completed a two year MSc in Chinese Herbal Medicine, as I felt this gave me an ideal combination of skills to treat my patients. I have been practising in Surbiton since 2012 and love working here!


What attracted you to this type of practice?

I was initially attracted to the philosophy that underlies Chinese Medicine, which views the body as a microcosm of the natural world. It was elegantly simple and made sense to me, but, like many subjects it appears simple at first and then becomes increasingly complex the more you learn and understand. Once I had experienced some treatment myself and could see the positive effects, I was curious to find out more.

For those who don’t know or are not sure, what does acupuncture involve?

In an acupuncture treatment, extremely fine, sterilised needles are inserted into specific points on the body to affect the flow of the patient’s Qi (energy). There are hundreds of acupuncture points and some of the points selected during a treatment may not be close to the part of the body where the problem is experienced. For example, although a patient may suffer from headaches, needles may be inserted in the foot or hand as the meridians that are located around the site of the headache flow from the head to other parts of the body.

What type of conditions do you treat? What area do you specialise in? 

The main focus of my practice is on women’s health and infertility (male and female). Although in Chinese medicine the emphasis of treatment is always on the individual and not just their medical issue, the conditions that I most commonly treat are: irregular menstrual cycles, painful periods, polycystic ovaries syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, menopausal syndrome, couples struggling to get pregnant where their infertility is unexplained and male factor infertility e.g. low sperm count. I also support couples while they are undergoing IVF/ICSI and I treat women during and after pregnancy.

In addition to this, I also treat a range of other conditions and when people first contact me about booking an appointment I always give them an honest answer about whether I think Chinese Medicine could be of benefit and, if so, whether I am the best person for them to come and see.


For those who have never had acupuncture before, what should they expect from appointments?

The first appointment is normally a longer session and involves a full case history (approximately 45 minutes) followed by an acupuncture treatment. During the case history I ask lots of questions, some of which may not seem directly connected to the reason a patient has come to see me, but they all help me to form a diagnosis and treatment plan based on the principles of Chinese medicine. Although patients are sometimes nervous at first, they are normally very surprised to discover that acupuncture is a very relaxing treatment and they can sometimes feel a bit sleepy afterwards. Subsequent treatments last 45 minutes and we have a discussion about the patient’s progress since the last session and then the needles are normally inserted for about 30 minutes. I am quite a gentle “needler” and have recently started incorporating some Japanese acupuncture techniques into my practice which use very fine needles that you hardly feel.


Where can people find you and how can they make contact?

I practise in Surbiton at the Surbiton Natural Health Centre, which is just opposite Waitrose on Claremont Road.

I can be contacted by telephone on 07914 852435 or via the contact page on my website