By Dr. Andrew Gibler, PharmD & Dr. John Winters N.D.
Today, bacteria exists that cannot be killed by any modern antibiotics. These bugs are “antibiotic resistant,” and growing in number. This is an increasing threat to your health.
An antibiotic is a compound designed to kill or inhibit the growth of susceptible bacteria without causing the patient significant harm. When used prudently, antibiotics are a powerful medical tool that eliminates bacterial infections. However, in time an antibiotic will lose its ability to control bacterial growth, a phenomenon called antibiotic resistance. Any bacterium that can resist an antibiotic has a greater chance of survival than bacteria that are susceptible to it. Those that survive multiply unchecked and pass on the resistance genes.
Although some antibiotic resistance occurs naturally, the high levels currently present are attributed to the overuse and abuse of antibiotics. If large numbers of bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, it will be more difficult to treat infections. When antibiotics fail to work, there are unintended consequences such as extra doctor visits, more expensive antibiotics, lost workdays, extended hospitalization or even death.
Antibiotic resistance is not only a personal issue but also a societal problem – resistant bacteria are transferred person to person just like any other bacteria – in the air, water, or on inanimate objects. In fact, 80-90% of ingested antibiotics pass through the body intact and enter the environment as waste, causing an ecological problem in the soil and water.
Administering long-term antibiotics to promote growth in animals for consumption hurts the matter as well.
Bacteria exist on skin, in the mouth, intestines, on food and doorknobs- you get the picture. Before you douse your world in bleach, be assured that many bacteria are essential to life and that your body knows the difference between the “good” and “bad” bacteria . Naturally occurring intestinal bacteria are crucial to our health; they make vitamins we wouldn’t get otherwise and they create an environment that promotes health and discourages disease in many ways. Fully one -half to two thirds of our immune system is stationed in our intestines, so keep your gut as healthy as possible.
As you may have guessed there are many ways of addressing bacterial infection. The body can usually handle the challenge, in deed it does every day. Every time you eat, drink, breath, or touch something, your body must identify and destroy pathogenic bacteria. A healthy body has many ways of staying disease free. Here are some ways you can help your body fight illness:
- Drink plenty of pure water
- Enjoy a whole foods diet comprising a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, chicken, meats and good fats. There is much more we know about the effects of what you eat and drink on your health.
- Take a high quality multiple vitamin-mineral supplement. Research and experience show that vitamins and minerals promote health in many ways. Especially important to the immune system are vitamins D,A,E, and Zinc. Fruits vegetables and herbs contain many phytonutrients known to help.
- Whole foods contain antioxidants, flavanoids, and many other healthy parts we are still learning about. There are also many natural ways of staying healthy.
- Herbal medicines, certain supplements, water therapy, and homeopathic are useful.
Some plant medicines used are goldenseal, echinacea, ginger, garlic and many others, depending upon the circumstances. We know these plants have antimicrobial properties from thousands of years of use and from more recent scientific studies. These medicinal plants don’t affect the body’s helpful bacteria and many will also kill pathogenic viruses, yeast and protozoa as well.
Many colds, sinusitis, chronic ear infections, sore throats and other illnesses are not bacterial infections and won’t be improved with antibiotics.
Naturopathic thinking suggest we not only kill the bacteria but more importantly improve the persons health in certain ways. Anything that will improve immune system function, or increase any of your body’s defense mechanisms will help you regain health. There’s a long list of non-antibiotic treatment for infections that you can use with or instead of antibiotics. Typically, non-drug treatments for infection work and you can still resort to antibiotics if necessary.
So how can antibiotics be used appropriately? Here are some basic points to remember:
Prescriptions are written to cover the time needed to help your body fight all the harmful bacteria. It is your personal and social responsibility to take your antibiotics until the bottle is empty. Otherwise, selection occurs for the bacteria that are resistant, infection restarts, and you become part of the antibiotic problem.
The physician should use targeted, “narrow-spectrum” antibiotics using susceptibility testing whenever possible. In addition, the most common antibiotics should first be utilized. This will decrease prescribing of more exotic antibiotics, which serve as a second line of defence.
Advocate eliminating the widespread use of antibiotics in animal feeds and agriculture.
Dr. John Winters grew up in Portland, Oregon. He earned a Bachelor of Science from Lewis and Clark College and then worked as an EMT/ Paramedic for 10years. Dr. Winters then attended the National College of Naturopathic Medicine and graduated with a medical degree in 1990. After completing a one and a half year residency in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he moved to La Grande and began his practice in 1992.