How Antibiotics Damage Your Gut and Immune System
There’s no doubt about it, antibiotics can save lives. The purpose of this article is not to advise you against taking antibiotics, but it should serve as an informative warning to think twice before getting that prescription filled and to be more cognizant of how antibiotics affect your health.
An Overexposure to Antibiotics
Before taking any kind of medicine, we should always know what it’s for and what it does. Many are wrongly prescribed antibiotics for the common cold and flu viruses. However, antibiotics are effective only for bacterial infections, not viruses. Not only is this drug misuse completely unnecessary, it is hazardous to our health, turning a well-intentioned solution into a major problem.
Nonchalantly taking antibiotics when you’re feeling sick is not like taking a vitamin or an herbal cough syrup, it’s a lot more serious than that. It will damage your body and in the meantime deplete your immune system that is working so hard to fight off that cold. So is it really worth the risk? I’d say not.
We have become victims to antibiotics not only through our own use, but also by outside sources. Think of the meat we buy at the grocery store. These animals are pumped full of antibiotics to prevent them from spreading disease because they are kept in filthy, unsanitary, and overpopulated conditions. Unless raised at a certified organic farm, this meat is tainted and unhealthy, yet millions consume it everyday without blinking an eye.
Some take extra caution when buying food for their family and only bring home organic meats and produce. This is commendable, but if we are to take action at preventing health complications for our children, it is imperative that we start from the time they are in the womb. Many women are given antibiotics during their pregnancy, or when delivering through cesarean (about 30% of births). This dosage of antibiotics can permanently damage an infant’s gut and immune system, contributing to disease and health complications.
How does this happen?
How Antibiotics Affect Your Body
Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria that create infection, but going above and beyond the call of duty, they also indiscriminately wipe out all the good bacteria along with it.
Why do we need these good bacteria? About 80% of our immunity is built in the intestinal tract of our bodies by good bacteria, or gut flora. They live in a carefully balanced ecosystem of trillions of microorganisms, which include around 400 different species of bacteria, and disrupting that system causes an overgrowth of other organisms like yeast, leading to candida infections. Candida can multiply rapidly and begin to damage the intestinal lining of your gut causing leakage.
Other bad bacteria and fungus that start to grow while the immune system is down bind onto heavy metals and transport them to tissues and organs, weakening them for invasion. Like candida, once the bacteria and fungus have fully taken over, the intestinal wall becomes leaky.
A Leaky Gut, Causing Disease
The job of the small intestine is to keep out toxins and undigested food until either filtered or ready to pass through. If the intestinal lining is leaky, it lets unwanted microbes, toxins, and undigested food pass into the bloodstream. Your immune system sends off warnings to get rid of the invaders and tirelessly overworks itself and eventually begins to function out of control. Once the immune system starts behaving this way there is a possibility of developing an autoimmune disease.
Leakage of threatening particles into the blood also causes inflammation of organs throughout the body. These organs become more susceptible to heavy metals, viruses, fungus and harmful bacteria. Chronic stress will weaken the organs and make them more prone to disease and cancer.
Other Harmful Effects
Sometimes antibiotics are truly necessary, and so it’s crucial that they work properly when administered. But, due to overprescribed or unjustified use of antibiotics, our bodies’ bacteria develop a resistance to them. Even the most powerful antibiotics don’t stand a chance against certain bacteria.
These microbes work by secreting enzymes to inactivate the antibiotic, rendering it useless. This would result in a longer treatment of the infection which could ultimately be ineffective. For example, penicillin’s chemical structure comes from the beta-lactam ring which the enzyme beta-lactamase will destroy. This tolerance puts our health at more risk and is a constant issue for many hospitals.
Prevention and Healing
Infancy is a crucial time for development of healthy gut flora, determining the long-term health of the child. As the gut micro biota builds and populates, the immune system takes an inventory of good cells and bad cells in the body.
But just one round of antibiotics, killing both the good and bad bacteria, will alter the infant’s delicate immune system and will not be the same again. Doctors suggest to breastfeed for at least 6 months during the time the infant’s gut flora is repopulating. This should help bring the natural balance of bacteria back to a more normal level.
Although an infant’s body is more fragile, adults have reason to be just as concerned. All it takes is one prescription to change and therefore weaken our immune system.
That’s why we need to supplement with probiotics every time we take antibiotics. This will help prevent infections and restore balance to the intestinal ecosystem by bringing back in the good bacteria. Eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha also support healthy gut flora.
Although we can do our best to heal our gut, the damage has already permanently been done. It is best to weigh the risks when taking any kind of medicine and make sure that you are aware of the effects to your overall health.
In closing, I would like to mention that in our clinic we use a variety of products for infections including western and Chinese antimicrobial herbs which are just as effective as traditional antibiotics but without damaging the good gut bacteria. Please reach out to us if you have any questions, we are here to help!