Did you know that antibiotics are completely ineffective for colds, bronchitis (chest cold), flu, and most sore throats? Or that our rampant overuse of antibiotics has led to an unbelievably dangerous rise in “superbugs” or drug-resistant bacteria—to the tune of 2 million infections and 23,000 deaths annually in the US alone?
Folks, the dangers of antibiotics are clear. We have to stop overusing antibiotics. And we have to stop now.
Doctors Are Only Part of the Problem
Yes, much of the overuse of antibiotics can be blamed on the doctors who prescribe them. Despite the clear research showing that these drugs don’t work for the conditions listed above, an analysis of prescribing trends conducted by Harvard researchers revealed that antibiotics are still being used in 60 percent of sore throat cases and 73 percent of acute bronchitis cases.
One in five sinusitis patients also receive an antibiotic prescription—even though these drugs have been proven to work no better than a placebo for sinus infections! In addition to being ineffective, overusing antibiotics can lead to nausea, yeast overgrowth, and other gastrointestinal disturbances. In fact, up to 20 percent of people stop taking their full course of antibiotics due to diarrhea and other side effects of these drugs.
Patients also play a role in overprescribing trends. Many people march into their local urgent care centers, emergency rooms, or doctor’s offices demanding antibiotics for their cold/flu symptoms. I have no doubt that some practitioners write antibiotic prescriptions simply to placate them.
If You Must Use Antibiotics
Now that I’ve outlined the dangers of antibiotics, I want to note that there are times when using these drugs is appropriate. One is strep throat. But only start a course of antibiotics AFTER you’ve received a positive strep test. (Again, antibiotics are useless against the viruses that cause most sore throats.) Other warranted uses of antibiotics include staph infections, bladder infections, and some ear infections.
If you must use antibiotics, protect yourself against the destruction of “good” bacteria in your body by taking a probiotic supplement. Note: Calcium may interfere with the absorption of antibiotics. After taking antibiotics, wait at least two hours before drinking milk or calcium-fortified orange juice or using calcium supplements.
You can also bolster your immune system—before, during, or after the onset of colds, flu, or other infections—by taking a potent multivitamin and mineral supplement and doing what you can to nurture your microorganisms for optimal health.
Now it’s your turn: What can you do to help avoid the overuse of antibiotics?