Columnist Nicola Parker writes about how to combat resistance to antibiotics.
Antibiotic resistance is big news. We’re seeing it in the papers, on the TV, I even see adverts in bus shelters, warning us of the dangers of antibiotic misuse.
The message is being reported clearly, we need to use our antibiotics more carefully.
Antibiotics are a fairly new discovery in the history of medicine and their abilities are nothing short of miraculous.
Antibiotics save lives, by killing infections that could otherwise kill us.
Unfortunately, we have not used this miraculous tool responsibly and overuse of antibiotics has led to the evolution of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.
The scary fact is that if we cannot kill them with our current medicines, we need to find new approaches and we need to do this quickly.
New antibiotics are being researched all the time, but it takes a long time for these to reach the market. This race against time is a very real concern and it has birthed a new attitude among practitioners of medicine about how we use our current antibiotics.
Doctors are more likely to encourage you to ride out a cold, get the flu jab, look after yourself or even visit a herbalist.
The irony is that, for years, herbalists have been encouraging alternative methods to antibiotic use, not out of concern for the development of superbugs, but because antibiotics can wreak havoc on a person’s health.
They are a powerful, life-saving remedy and medicine this powerful leaves its mark on the body.
The gut is filled with trillions of bacteria.
I find it difficult to even comprehend a figure that large, let alone believe that there are that many bacteria living inside me.
These bacteria perform a multitude of functions as they coexist inside us.
We could not survive without them and if the delicate balance of bacteria is disturbed, it can lead to us becoming unwell.
When we take antibiotics, they kill off infectious, problematic bacteria but they also kill of many of these friendly bacteria, the ones that support our immune system and maintain our gut health and energy levels.
Consequently, one of the first things I ask a person that comes to me with unexplained fatigue, is when their last course of antibiotics was.
Herbalists have a multitude of immune boosting, antibacterial and mucus fighting herbs.
An attempt to avoid antibiotics does not need to stop with the flu jab.
Consider taking an immune booster through winter. My personal favourite is a blend called Immune Support. It contains nutrients that feed the immune system, helping to strengthen it long term, rather than just fight off current colds.
A strong immune system is key to avoiding infection and it makes sense to build up our defences during the winter months. Immune Support contains elder and garlic, antiviral herbs that address mucus and congestion, making it a good all rounder for when your doctor refuses you antibiotics. It’s frustrating to hear, “it’s just a virus, you need to let it take its course.” but your GP is simply trying to avoid unnecessary antibiotics. The herbs in Immune Support should help speed along this process, leaving your immune system more powerful, rather than run down as antibiotics would.
I appreciate that it isn’t always possible to avoid antibiotics. I’m definitely not against their use, but if you’ve had to take them, it is possible to lessen their impact on the body.
If you’ve had to bite the bullet and take a course, finish the whole thing to ensure the infection is completely cleared.
After that, look towards a probiotic to restore balance to the bacteria in your gut. This should help you avoid that prolonged run down feeling and get your immune system fighting fit as soon as possible.
I use a multistrain probiotic called Mightidophilus, since we don’t know how many strains the antibiotics have affected. Our regulars call it Mighty-Dolphins, which always makes me laugh, although I do find the term ‘mighty’ quite fitting. The more we learn, the more apparent it becomes that the gut is the powerhouse of the immune system.
So if it has hit on hard times, show it some love. You should find that your energy, immunity and general wellbeing improve, making you stronger and less prone to needing that second course of medicine.