Responsible Antibiotic Use and The Natural Options
Since the 1950s, researchers have been warning the medical system of an impending problem: super bugs (or more aptly termed "antibiotic resistant bacteria). These bacteria, researchers warned, would not be affected by antibiotics. How does this happen? Simple mutation or (some might call it) micro-evolution. As the bacteria sit on the petri dish (or inside you) they are exposed to and killed by antibiotics. In that process, some mutations (changes in the bacteria's DNA) occur that allow the exposed bacteria to survive and not be affected by that antibiotic. Of course there are several different types of antibiotics. But if certain organisms go through this process of exposure-mutation-resistance over and over with different antibiotics, we end up with superbugs or MDR (multidrug resistant) bacteria.
Because we've decided to not heed the warning and we've given antibiotics out for a variety of non-life threatening conditions (sinusitis, acne, rheumatoid arthritis, preventive care for dental procedures, etc.), we've taken what was a theoretic warning and turned it into a reality. Examples of MDR's that you may have heard of include VRE (vancomycin resistant enterococci) which are very prevalent in patients after long hospital stays. Another one that has had more press time is MRSA (methicillin resistant staph aureus). If you've heard someone say a word that sounds like MERSA, this is what they are referring to. MRSA is a problem because it causes more issues than VRE and we have no known antibiotic to treat it with.
Alternatives to antibiotics
In my office, I've effectively used a variety of natural anti-bacterial supplements in treating MDR bacteria. Because antibiotics usually work by affecting DNA expression or, more simply, how the bacteria either reproduces or by affecting how a given essential bacterial structure is or isn't manufactured, bacteria can grow resistant to these types of drugs. However, we see that less often in the natural realm mainly because the bacteria really aren't having their DNA altered. Instead, the natural products create an environment that makes it unpleasant for the bacteria to live or reproduce; products like garlic, oregano, goldenseal, olive leaf extract, pau d'arco, and even grapefruit seed extract.
There are different types of infections throughout the body. Some require these antibacterials, but some don't. I like using very high dose concentrated cranberry for bladder infections (cystitis) although Cystistatin (combination of uva ursi, berberine, buchu and bladderwrack) can also be very effective. For stomach or duodenal ulcers, there are a number of products that work well if it's a helicobacter pylori infection causing the ulcer, such as Bio HPF, Pyloricil, and H-PLR.
We've talked about the superbug issue with regard to antibiotics. The other major problem is that the antibiotic doesn't localize to the strep throat or to the urinary tract infection; it goes everywhere in the body. For most sterile areas of the body, that is not a problem. Unfortunately, the lower part of the digestive tract, vagina, sinuses, throat/mouth all have mucosal membranes that are maintained by a confluent layer of healthy bacteria that live on the surface. Without these bacteria, the mucosal membranes are vulnerable to inflammation/disrepair, and yeast intestinal overgrowth becomes an issue as well. Yeast are the weeds of the human body. They grow where the normal "good stuff" has not grown to an adequate population, or isn't there at all. The yeast then grow in the abandoned areas. What happens is really quite simple. The pathogenic bacteria that are causing the problem are usually vulnerable to the antibiotic, but so are all your healthy bacteria. Consequently we kill off the good with the bad, and that's when women get vaginal yeast infections, people experience gassiness/bloating, in addition to getting skin rashes as well as other types of yeast infections (ringworm, athlete's foot, feminine itching, jock itch, diaper rash, etc).
So are antibiotics bad?
Antibiotics are not evil. They've really been a miracle for modern medicine. There were infections that used to kill people and now they rarely do. Antibiotics are amazing. However, we've "gone to the well" too many times and now we're paying the price for it. We need to save antibiotic usage for emergency cases or cases where natural options are ineffective. We need to start treating sinusitis and ear infections as food allergies/sensitivities (which in most cases is what they are) rather than infections. We need to look at the cause of acne which is yeast intestinal overgrowth, food allergies/sensitivities and a toxicity issue more than a bacterial infection issue.
For a few of the products out there that can be effective, go to www.notmedicine.com and look up anti-bacterials and see what's available. If you're not sure if it's viral or bacterial, come into the office and get tested. It's pretty easy and can be very helpful.