Too Much of a Good Thing: The Biology of Antibiotic Resistance
Jan 2nd, 2012 | By Carmen | Category: Big Pharma and the FDA, Health | Print This Article
There is no disputing that antibiotics can be lifesavers. For those suffering from dangerous bacterial infections, taking these medicines may very well be necessary, and there may not be any good alternatives available in many cases. Any sane medical system will rely on the prudent use of antibiotics to help cure some infections, especially in instances where the body’s own immune responses are clearly inadequate to the task at hand.
Unfortunately, we do not have a sane medical system in the United States. What we have instead is an insane health care regime that is motivated by greed and ideological idiocy, two tendencies that reinforce each other in a very destructive way. Convincing people to take as many drugs as possible for every health problem under the sun can mean big money for the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture these substances, as well as the medical professionals who benefit by hypochondriac patients who run to the doctor every time they are bothered by even the slightest negative symptom – which of course is what drug company advertising tells them they should do. At the same time, it appears that most medical professionals really do believe, or at least allow themselves to be convinced, that the human body is so vulnerable and so fragile that it can only be properly protected if prescription medicines are consumed frequently and with very little restraint.
While anti-depressants are probably the most overused and over-prescribed pharmaceutical medications, antibiotics are not far behind. Many people will rush to the doctor to get them every time they have a stomach ache, low-grade fever, runny nose, diarrhea, or unexplained cough; in fact, it seems that the majority of Americans are not even aware of the fact that antibiotics cannot work against viruses, which are completely different from bacteria. Nevertheless, antibiotic use is rampant among medical patients in the United States, and doctors will even sometimes prescribe them for viral conditions because they are supposedly worried about the possibility of secondary bacterial infections.
This overuse of antibiotics costs people a lot of money, and this is not an inconsequential consideration. However, what it is most important to understand is that over reliance on antibiotics is not just expensive, but also very, very dangerous.
Resistance is Futile – But Not for Bacteria
The first big problem with the overuse of antibiotics is that these medicines have the ability to stimulate change in harmful microbes, which sometimes allows these bacteria to develop resistance to medicines that at one point were effective in halting their spread. The relationship between living beings and their environment is dynamic and dialectical, and as a general rule, the smaller and less complex the organism, the more quickly and dramatically it can change its characteristics in response to outside pressures or factors. When bacteria are routinely targeted by antibiotics, rather than allowing themselves to be wiped out, those microorganisms will mutate and eventually become immune to the medicines that were formerly used to kill them. When antibiotics are used more modestly, on the other hand, the pressures on the besieged subtypes of bacteria are not nearly as intense and pervasive, and as a result, new mutations have a much harder time taking hold.
The development of resistance to antibiotics is a pervasive tendency in microbes, and the US Centers for Disease Control has identified antibiotic-resistant bacteria as a dangerous and rising threat to public health. Even beyond the over-prescribing of this type of pharmaceutical drug, making the situation even worse is the fact that massive amounts of antibiotics (70 percent of the total) are now being used by farmers on their livestock. This practice, which is done to make farm animals grow fatter, has increased the amount of antibiotics released into the environment substantially, contaminating the food supply, and thereby dramatically expanding human exposure to these medicines.
Destroying the Body to Save It – The Antibiotic Connection to Ill Health
Antibiotics are equal-opportunity killers that attack any and all microorganisms in the body. Because they kill beneficial bacteria as well as harmful ones, their actions can create imbalances and dysfunctions in the gastrointestinal tract that make the body more susceptible to a number of serious health problems. Scientists are only now beginning to understand the critical role that microorganisms play in preserving human health, as the bacteria in the gut form symbiotic relationships with biological processes that help facilitate proper digestion, absorption of nutrients, and effective immune system response. When antibiotics are used frequently they can throw the body’s digestive system completely out of whack, and outbreaks of dangerous health conditions can be the end result of this unfortunate practice – which of course is being encouraged by the health care industry and the drug companies.
This destructive side effect of antibiotic use explains the findings of a new medical study that was just recently discussed in an article in Wired magazine. What this study revealed is that the U.S. states with the highest use of antibiotics are also the states with the highest rates of several chronic and serious health conditions, including heart disease, asthma, diabetes, obesity, stroke, and heart disease.
Protecting Yourself from Serial Exposure to Antibiotics
Antibiotics should only be used as a last resort, and when they are used, people should afterward take action to help their bodies restore a natural microbiological balance. For at least the first few weeks after taking antibiotics, probiotic supplements could be taken daily, and plentiful amounts of unpasteurized, fermented foods that are high in beneficial bacteria should be consumed on a regular basis. Some of the very best of these types of foods are:
- Fermented vegetables
- Natto (fermented soy)
- Kefir (fermented grass-fed raw milk)
Foods containing sugar should be avoided in the weeks following exposure to antibiotics, because they can act as a fuel source for dangerous microorganisms that may still exist in trace amounts inside the body.
In general, the type of diet just described is excellent for protecting against bacterial infection, and it can help the body maintain its natural resistance to other serious types of health conditions as well. Of course, it is also wise to refrain from eating animal products that come from factory farms, since this kind of hidden exposure to antibiotics can undermine proper biological functioning without people even realizing what is happening.
Antibiotics have a role to play in preserving and protecting human health. But that role is a very limited one, and anyone who hopes to protect themselves from bacterial invasion can best do so in most cases by consuming a diet that will feed and nurture all the “good” microorganisms that can help the human body stay healthy and strong in a totally natural way.
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