Antibiotics, also known as antimicrobials or antibacterials, are strong medications that treat infections caused by germs (certain parasites and bacteria). Antibiotics do not work against illness caused by viruses, such as the flu or common cold. Antibiotics also do not work against fungi such as thrush in the vagina or mouth or against fungal skin infections.
Antibiotics come in several forms including capsules, tablets, or liquids, and in certain cases, such as hospitalization due to a severe infection, they may be administered via injection. For certain skin infections, antibiotics may be administered in the form of lotions, ointments, or creams. If antibiotics are not taken the right way, they may cause more harm than good.
Risks of the Overuse of Antibiotics
Recently, antibiotic treatments have been found to be less effective for certain types of bacterial infections. When an antibiotic does not have an effect on certain strains of bacteria, they are called antibiotic-resistant bacteria. When bacteria survive antibiotic treatment, they can multiply and even transfer those drug-resistant properties to different bacteria. Antibiotic resistance is a concerning trend that is influenced by the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. According to the Mayo Clinic, “The general public, doctors and hospitals all play a role in ensuring proper use of the drugs and minimizing the development of antibiotic resistance.”
Antibiotic resistance is promoted by an overuse of antibiotics, especially when they are prescribed for ailments for which antibiotic treatment isn’t appropriate. Antibiotics should be used to treat only bacterial infections, not infections caused by viruses. Strep throat, for instance, is an appropriate use case for antibiotics, but these medications shouldn’t be used for the typical sore throat, as most are caused by viruses. If you take antibiotics for a viral infection, the antibiotic still attacks bacteria in your body – both disease-causing bacteria and the healthy bacteria in the gut and other areas of the body that do not contribute to disease but help to maintain the balance required for the optimal functioning of the body’s physiological systems.
Dangers to Patients Treated with Antibiotics
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least two million people in the U.S. annually “acquire serious infections with bacteria that are resistant to one or more of the antibiotics designed to treat those infections.” In addition, approximately 23,000 people die annually due to antibiotic-resistant infections. There are an increasing amount of drug-resistant infections which may result in:
- Treatments that are more expensive
- Treatments that are more invasive, less effective, or both
- More visits to the doctor
- Hospitalizations that are longer or more frequent
- A prolonged recovery
- An increase in deaths from illnesses that were previously treatable
- Illnesses or disabilities that are more serious
In addition to these very serious dangers of the overuse of antibiotics, patients taking antibiotic treatment often experience a number of unpleasant side effects such as gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, stomach pain, and yeast infections. These side effects are a result of the loss of healthy bacteria in the gut, which maintains the proper balance of microflora to maintain digestive health and immunity.
Additionally, some experts believe there is a link between repeated antibiotic therapy and the risk of developing certain chronic diseases such as asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, and even type 1 diabetes in children, as well as possible links between an out-of-balance bacterial environment (caused by antibiotic therapy) and cancer.
Avoiding the Dangers of Taking Antibiotics
To avoid the dangers of taking antibiotics, some important things that may help include:
- Only taking antibiotics as the doctor prescribes.
- Taking the prescribed daily dosage and being sure to complete the entire course of your treatment, even if you are feeling better before you finish the medications.
- Asking your doctor what to do if you forget to take one of your doses.
- Taking probiotics to restore the healthy bacteria in your gut.
- Throwing out any leftover antibiotics you may have. Never take leftover antibiotics from a previous illness.
- Not taking someone else’s prescribed antibiotics.
- Not asking, or pressuring, your doctor for an antibiotic prescription. Ask your doctor the best way to treat your symptoms.
Probiotics to Counter the Negative Effects of Antibiotics
Antibiotics are made to destroy bacteria, however they don’t discriminate between the “bad” and “good” bacteria in the gut. When bacteria are killed as a result of antibiotic therapy, healthy bacteria and other microorganisms in the gut are thrown out of balance which results in the negative gastrointestinal side effects many patients experience. Additionally, an imbalance of bacteria can lower immune function and contribute to eczema, hormonal imbalance, anxiety, and other effects.
One of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, particularly when you’re taking a course of antibiotics, is by taking probiotic supplements. A natural probiotic supplement can strengthen your immune system and restore digestive health naturally, with each capsule containing 10.0 Billion colony forming units. While antibiotic therapy is sometimes necessary to restore health, supplementing your diet and exercise routine with probiotics or immune supplements can keep your immune system functioning at its best, warding off disease naturally to reduce the need for antibiotic treatment in the future.