Did you know: Malaysians rank among the world’s highest antibiotic users?
Antibiotics are among the most prescribed medications both for children and adults. As you might guess from the name, antibiotics are useful to prevent and treat bacterial infection. However antibiotics once taken do not only affect bad bacterias, they affect both the bad and good bacterias in your body. This is especially true for broad spectrum which are effective against a wide range of bacterias.
So what are the common illnesses that might not benefit from taking antibiotics?
Upper Respiratory Infections (URI)
This is caused by an acute infection involving the upper respiratory tract (i.e. nose, sinuses, larynx, pharynx). The common cold or flu is an upper respiratory infection. And you’re more likely then not to be prescribed with antibiotics if you’re having symptoms of URI.
However did you know, up to 80% of URI are actually caused by viruses? What this means is that antibiotics are practically useless in these cases, because antibiotics only target bacteria.
Sore throats could either be viral, bacterial or caused by other environmental factors (such as dry air, allergy, smoke, etc). Only about 5 – 10% of sore throats are caused by bacterial infection. Most sore throats are viral infections and therefore do not benefit from antibiotics.
Most sore throats do not require medical attention. However, if you’ve been having sore throat for more than a week and experience any of the following symptoms, do consult your medical professional:
- a fever over 38˚C
- difficulty breathing
- difficulty swallowing
- joint pain
- an ear-ache
- a rash
- bloody mucus
You might be thinking, what’s the harm of taking a bit of antibiotics just to be safe?
Did you know: Even a short course of antibiotics may result in permanent changes to your gut flora? Therefore, it is highly unadvisable to take antibiotics just in case. Many studies have shown the short and long term effects of taking antibiotics on your health and microbiome (gut health). And your gut health is absolutely vital for your overall health and proper functioning of your immune system. This is especially true for children.
Once taken, antibiotics will enter your bloodstream and circulate to all your organs and tissues. Whatever bacteria that it comes across will be destroyed (irregardless of whether they’re good or bad). This is especially worse for broad spectrum antibiotics which target a wide variety of bacteria.
So try to only take antibiotics when your infection is severe enough to warrant it and whenever possible go for narrow spectrum antibiotics that targeted towards your particular bacterial infection.
What are the long terms side effects of antibiotics use?
So what could antibiotic use cost you?
Changes to your gut microbiota
Recent research have revealed the importance of our gut microbiota for our general health. It affect many aspects of your health, among them are:
- Your immune function
- Your metabolism
- Your nutrition
- Your body’s detoxification
- Your inflammation levels
- Weight gain
Taking antibiotics would affect the diversity of your gut microbial communities, destroying beneficial gut bacteria and at the same time making it easier for other pathogens to take over your gut. What’s more, it takes approximately 2 years for your gut microbiome to return to normal after taking antibiotics.
Oxidative stress to your cells
Antibiotics destroy bacteria by causing oxidative stress to the bacteria. Therefore inadvertently, taking antibiotics could also cause oxidative stress to your cells which can lead to DNA damage. The good news is: this effect can be countered using antioxidants.
So what could you do to prevent having to take antibiotics (as much as possible)?
We always believe in prevention rather than cure. Here are some preventative measures you could take for both yourself and your loved ones:
- Look into what you’re eating. Go for nutrient-rich, whole foods to support your health and immune system. This lowers the frequency and severity of infection.
- Consume foods that support your gut health like fermented foods (kimchi, yogurt, etc) and fermentable foods (prebiotics like fibre, etc). Do consider supplemental pre and probiotics if you’re not getting enough from your diet.
- Keep up good hygiene habits, i.e. washing hands often to reduce exposure to germs, etc.
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