Inappropriate use of Antibiotics :
Destruction of Friendly Bacteria.
The human body is home to hundreds of billions of bacteria, many of which are vital for optimum health. It is a delicately balanced system much like the rain forests of this planet. Bifidobacteria in the large intestine, and acidophilus in the small intestine and vagina protect against infection by yeast and bacteria. Likewise, "friendly" bacteria found on the skin protect against bacterial, yeast and fungal infections. Overuse of antibiotics, especially broad-spectrum antibiotics as well as steroid drugs (such as "the pill"), can seriously disrupt the normal ecology of the body and render anyone more susceptible to subsequent bacterial, yeast, viral and parasitic infection.
Yeast overgrowth is a common side effect of antibiotic use. Women who use antibiotics often develop bowel and vaginal yeast infections. Children treated repeatedly with antibiotics for ear infections often develop yeast and fungal infections of the middle ear.
Antibiotics can contribute to nutrient loss. By disrupting the population of beneficial bacteria in the gut, antibiotics can adversely influence the availability of Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, Vitamin A, and Folic Acid. Zinc and magnesium can also be lost. When antibiotics cause diarrhea, the loss of these nutrients can be significant.
Antibiotics can, in some cases, hinder the immune response. For example, children given amoxicillin for chronic earaches suffer two to six times the rate of recurrent middle ear effusion than children who took a placebo. According to Carol Jessop, MD, Clinical Professor at the University of California at San Francisco, 80% of her patients who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome (or chronic fatigue immunodeficiency syndrome) had a history of recurrent antibiotics treatment as a child, adolescent or adult.
Development of Food Allergies
Antibiotics can contribute to the development of food intolerance. According to Leo Galland, MD, " It's no accident that the most allergic generation in history has been raised on antibiotics. Several times a week I see a new patient whose allergies appeared or became much worse after a course of antibiotics."
Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria
Bacteria resistant to antibiotics is a rapidly emerging problem with potentially disastrous consequences. In 1941, only 40,000 units per day of penicillin for four days was required to "cure" pneumococcal pneumonia. "Today, a patient could receive 24 million units of penicillin a day and die of pneumococcal meningitis." Strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae that are resistant to penicillin also have decreased susceptibility to broad-spectrum cephalosporin antibiotics.
A similar situation exists with regard to other antibiotics. Haemophilus influenzae is a bacterium responsible for ear infections, sinusitis, epiglottitis, and meningitis. In 1986, roughly 32 % of the strains of this bacterium were resistant to ampicillin, the drug most commonly used against it. In Barcelona, Spain, 50 % of H. influenzae type B are resistant to five or more antibiotics, including chloralphenicol and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, the most commonly used alternatives to ampicillin.
Antibiotic resistance also knows no age boundaries. The bacterium E. coli is a common cause of bladder infection in men and women. In the United States, roughly 40 % of the strains of E. coli isolated from the urine of geriatric units were resistant to trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. In a recent outbreak of pneumococcal pneumonia in a day care center, carriers of a penicillin-resistant strain of the bacteria were more likely to have received preventive antibiotics for recurrent ear infections.
Overuse and inappropriate use of antibiotics have led to the current crisis. According to Michell L. Cohen of the Centers for Disease Control, "Unless currently effective antimicrobial agents can be successfully preserved and the transmission of drug-resistant organisims curtailed, the post antibiotic era may be rapidly approaching in which infectious disease wards housing untreatable conditions will again be seen.
There are many ways to improve immune function so that the use of antibiotics can be reduced or eliminated. By addressing diet, nutritional status, lifestyle, hygene, genetic uniqueness, environmental and psychological factors, such as mood and stress, one can improve resistance to disease and minimize the chance that invading microbes will gain a foothold.
Enhancing Immune Function :
The immune system is a barometer of health - and any return to a healthy state should involve immune enhancement. There are many influences on this defense mechanism.
Diet and Nutrition
In 1991, 104 children with chronic ear infections were tested for allergies to foods. Seventy eight percent tested positive for one or more foods. After removing the offending foods for eleven weeks, 70 of the 81 children experienced significant improvement.
Children with severe measles are susceptible to complications such as pneumonia, ear infections, croup, diarrhea (all commonly treated with antibiotics), and death. When such children were supplemented with Vitamin A, the rate of complications was cut in half.
Exposure to foreign chemicals can also diminish resistance to infection. In a study reported in Pediatrics (1992), 92 pregnant women had their amniotic fluid analyzed for toxic metals. A toxic risk score was calculated based on the number and amount of metals present. When the children were assessed at age three, those with the highest toxic risk scores were found to have experienced more infections (of the ear, nose, throat, and other areas), and more illness in general than those with low scores. In another study, mercury amalgam fillings were found to trigger the development of bacterial resistance to several common antibiotics.
Those who lead a sedentary life are often predisposed to respiratory infection. When sedentary women with a history of respiratory infection simply began walking for 45 minutes each day, their rate of respiratory infection dropped dramatically.
Mood, Mind and Stress
Psychological factors have a significant impact on resistance to disease. A study conducted at Harvard Medical School found that in people who harbored the strep bacteria in their throats, one half of those under high stress actually became sick compared with only one fifth of those under low stress.
By addressing these and other primary factors about the way people live, doctors could sharply curtail their reliance upon antibiotics while simultaneously achieving their goal - to build immunity and direct their patients back toward health.
Natural and Herbal Medicine for Immune Enhancement
Practitioners of alternative medicine or other forms of natural therapeutics already possess an arsenal of methods and substances that are helpful in promoting healing from infection.
There are numerous herbs useful in the care of infections. Some are directly antibacterial or antiviral while others are immune potentiators. Some herbs do both. Examples include Goldenseal, Licorice, Garlic, reishi and shiitake mushrooms, and echinacea. Of these, echinacea and garlic are among the most widely used, extensively researched, and effective of all immune-building plants.
Essential Oils and Homeopathic Medicine
Essential plant oils useful during various types of infectious illness include Tea Tree Oil, Thyme, Savory, Eucalyptus, Inula, Lavender, Geranium and Citrus Seed extract.
Homeopathy initially gained notoriety in the United States because of it's effectiveness against epidemic infectious diseases. Medicines commonly used during infection include Apis Mel., Arsen Alb., Belladonna, Rhus Tox., Merc Iod., Hepar Sulph., Lachesis, and others.
Vitamins and Minerals
Numerous Vitamins and minerals are known to be important in immune function. Among those commonly used to potentiate immune function or promote healing during infection are Zinc, Selenium, Vitamins A-C-E, Beta-carotene, Coenzyme Q10, and B Vitamins.
Supplements such as acidophilus can be used to enhance digestion and reverse many of the negative intestinal effects of prolonged antibiotic therapy. Many doctors also prescribe acidophilus (for the small intestine) and bifidobacteria (for the large intestine) concurrently whenever antibiotics are prescribed.