Introduced in the 1940s, antibiotics have been embedded as medicine for the treatment of bacterial infections. Although antibiotics have their place in medicine, are antibiotics really worth the underlying risk?
The widespread use of antibiotics
Caught a cold or flu? Antibiotics. Coughing? Antibiotics. Ear infection? Antibiotics. Sound familiar? Antibiotics have become one of the most over-prescribed conventional medicines today. Have you ever gone to the doctors when you were unwell and been prescribed antibiotics, despite a lack of diagnosis yet? The first national report of antimicrobial use found almost half of all Australians were prescribed antibiotics at least once in 2014, and a huge proportion didn’t need them.
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care report found that in Australia’s hospitals on any given day more than one-third of patients were given antibiotics, with almost half either inappropriately prescribed or flouting guidelines. Similarly, more than one third of people who visit the doctor when they or their child have a cold or flu-like symptoms are expected to be prescribed antibiotics. The highest rates of antibiotic usage in the community was found to be among children up to nine years old and people over 65, with medical practitioners accounting for 88% of all antibiotic prescriptions.
Senior medical adviser Professor John Turnidge suggests that, “it’s such an ingrained belief that all infections are caused by bacteria and require antibiotics when in fact most respiratory infections, around 95 per cent, are caused by virus, and in these instances antibiotics give you nothing but side effects”.
So why should you care?
It is important to be aware of the many side effects and consequences that the overuse of antibiotics and broad-spectrum drugs have on our bodies. It can make the drugs less effective against the bacteria they are intended to treat by encouraging the growth of antibiotic-resistant infection. They damage the lining of the gut, causing leaky gut and reduce nutrient absorption. They can also wipe out good bacteria (probiotics) within the gut, which assist in the digestion of food, protection from infections, and production of vitamins.
Conventional antibiotics only target the essential growth processes of bacteria, allowing bacteria to build up a resistance over time, whilst simultaneously destroying beneficial gut bacteria. Today, bacteria that are resistant not only to a single drug but simultaneously to many drugs, are rampantly spread in the community and clinically due to the improper use of antibiotics in the past decade. Antibiotic resistance may result in treatment failure, increased treatment costs, higher rates of fatalities, and create even broader infection control problems – spreading resistant bacteria from hospital to community.
Consequently, antibiotic over-use results in a negative effect to our digestive system and ironically, lowers our natural immunity to several types of infections in the future.
Natural antibiotics as alternatives: complex, but safe
As this trend continues, medical experts are taking a new look at safe, natural antibiotics as alternatives. Herbal antibiotics have a very complex nature. These natural substances either exhibit antibiotic actions directly, or stimulate the production of the body’s own protection mechanisms. These natural antibiotics not only kill pathogenic organisms, but strengthen the immune system and support the elimination of pathogens and toxins, thereby holistically treating imbalances of the body.
Fight infections naturally with these powerful natural antibiotics, available as foods or over the counter supplements at your health food shop in tinctures or capsule format.
Garlic is the most potent natural antibiotics. It has been used medicinally by cultures around the world for thousands of years – just ask your grandma what she used to do when anybody in her town was sick. It was often used in the 1700s to ward off the plague. Interestingly, during the earliest Olympics in Greece, garlic was fed to the athletes for increasing stamina – clearly a multi-purpose bulb used throughout history.
Allicin, the active constituent in garlic released after freshly crushing it, has been found to be responsible for its potent antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiparasitic, and antimicrobial actions without wiping out beneficial bacteria in the gut. Allicin has been proven to be more powerful than standard penicillin. Garlic is also very high in natural antioxidants that destroy free radicals, which also supports a strong immune system.
Garlic extracts can be readily available from your local health food store in the form of garlic oil or aged garlic.
Known for its profound immune-stimulating properties, echinacea is a commonly prescribed herb used for treating both acute and chronic infections, the common cold and flu, as well as bronchitis. The parts of echinacea are the roots and aerial parts of three species: Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, and Echinacea pallida. The active constituent, cichoric acid, found highest in the roots of Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia, support our body’s natural immune responses. Echinacea is best administered in a tincture (alcohol extract) to be most effective on bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungal infections. Ever taken echinacea tincture orally and noticed the tingly sensation on your tongue? The tingling is due to the active constituents, alkalmides. The more tingly the tincture, the better quality the echinacea root – so block your nose and shot this super herb down. There are lots of great echinacea tinctures available over the counter, either on its own or combined with other anti-microbial herbs such as olive leaf extract and elderberry. Alternatively, if liquid echinacea is too bitter (don’t worry I won’t judge), capsules are also available for your convenience.
Here’s another medicinal food you may already have in your pantry – raw honey or manuka honey. Dr Susan Meschwitz suggests “ the unique property of honey lies in its ability to fight infection on multiple levels, prohibiting bacteria to develop resistance”. The high-sugar concentration in honey enables it to dehydrate bacteria’s structures through an osmosis effect wherein water is drawn from the bacteria cells, ultimately leaving the pathogen to dehydrate and die off. Honey can inhibit bacteria from communicating and expanding their viability. By stopping this bacterial communication, bacteria cannot release toxins that increase their ability to cause infection. While most honey varieties have some anti-microbial effect, due to either osmosis or other elements in the plant from which the bees have produced the honey, manuka (ti-tree) honey has a particularly strong anti-microbial action because of the presence of large amounts of the enzyme ethylglyoxal. Aside from being antibacterial, honey is also anti-viral and anti-fungal – it has even been shown to target undetected fungal conditions. Honey can be taken orally or applied topically as an ointment. While it is easily accessible from supermarkets, ensure to choose unfiltered, raw honey, or manuka honey available from your local health food store.
When administered in the colloidal form (at around ten parts per million), silver is one of the most effective, versatile, and non-toxic natural antibiotics against hundreds of infectious conditions. Conventional antibiotics kill around a half-dozen different disease organisms, while silver kills some 650. Based on laboratory tests with colloidal silver, destructive bacteria, virus, and fungus organisms are killed within minutes of contact via disabling the specific enzyme that several forms of bacteria, viruses, and fungi utilise for expanding their viability.
Yes, that simple herb growing in your pot near the window. Carvacrol, the active constituent in oregano oil, has been found to be responsible for its antiviral, antifungal (including candida species), and antibacterial (including E. coli, salmonella, and staphlococcus species) properties. The essential oils of cinnamon, clove, thyme, and rosemary have been shown to also possess strong antibacterial activity.
Grapefruit seed extract
Grapefruit seed extract, also known as citrus seed extract, has been shown to be as effective as oral and topical conventional natural antibiotics. It has been shown to have potent antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal actions. Grapefruit seed extract has been effective for throat infections and diarrhoea. Despite its potent efficacy, it may also kill off some friendly gut bacteria, therefore should be used with caution. Although it may be difficult to find, grapefruit seed extract may be available at your local health food shop.
The interest in coconut oil has grown in popularity in the last few years as nature’s multi-purpose superfood. Coconut oil has antimicrobial, antifungal (especially candida species), and anti-inflammatory actions. The medium-chain fatty acids, specifically lauric acid, derived from coconut oil, has shown to inhibit the growth of Clostridium difficile, the leading cause of hospital-acquired antibiotic-associated diarrhoea worldwide.
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice involving swishing a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for 10-15 minutes. Research shows that 15 minutes of oil pulling has been as effective to remove oral bacteria and dental caries as the commonly prescribed drug chlorhexidine. Long-term use of chlorhexidine alters taste sensation and produces brown staining on the teeth.
This multi-purpose superfood can be taken orally or applied topically for wound healing and as an effective moisturiser. Ensure to choose organic, raw, and cold pressed coconut oil from your local health food store.
Probiotic and fermented foods including yoghurt, saurkraut, kombucha, kimchi, kefir, and miso are known as lactic acid-producing bacteria within the gut and are tasty natural antibiotics. These foods consumed daily can assist in enhancing the immune system, improving gut health and digestion, enhancing the absorption of nutrients, decreasing symptoms of lactose intolerance, and reducing the prevalence of allergy in susceptible individuals. Lactic acid-producing bacteria have been shown to modify gut pH, produce antimicrobial compounds that bind to and destroy pathogens, and produce the enzyme lactase. Probiotics can correct dysbiosis (balance between beneficial and pathogenic bacteria) within the gut, thereby boosting the immune system. Supplementation of probiotics is also available on the market, preferably refrigerated ones.
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