Published on April 30th, 2019 | by Dr. Doug Pucci0
Antibiotics Are Not Always the Answer
by Doug Pucci
There’s no question that some illnesses require antibiotics for more serious types of bacterial infections, but their overuse has become detrimental to people’s health. The most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that more than 266 million antibiotic prescriptions are given to patients annually on an outpatient basis (this doesn’t include hospitalized patients), which translates to about 838 prescriptions written for every 1,000 people. Furthermore, according to the CDC, “At least 30 percent of antibiotics prescribed in the outpatient setting are unnecessary, meaning that no antibiotic was needed at all.” So, one in every three people who were prescribed antibiotics didn’t need them.
In addition, the CDC states that approximately 50 percent of antibiotics are inappropriately prescribed, meaning that either the wrong dosage, the wrong period of usage or the wrong drug—such as powerful broad-spectrum drugs rather than targeted medications—is given to patients. Inappropriately and overly prescribed antibiotics contribute to antibiotic resistance, which is when bacterial “bugs” survive antibiotic treatment, leading doctors to prescribe more potent antibiotics.
This vicious cycle has led to the modern-world problem of “superbugs”, which infect about 2 million Americans annually and lead to the death of approximately 162,000 of these patients, according to Washington University School of Medicine researchers; worldwide, the number of deaths increases to 700,000. The number of U.S. deaths is significantly up from a long-held 2010 estimate of 23,000.
The upshot is that the more antibiotics patients take, the greater their chances of developing an infection that is resistant to antibiotics altogether or the inability to have antibiotics effectively treat bacterial infections at all.
Inappropriate reasons for prescribing antibiotics—and cause to either question medical advice or even say “No thanks” include a cough, the flu, a head cold, viral respiratory infections, sore throats, sinusitis and most ear infections
These illnesses and others are most often caused by viruses, which are not curable through antibiotics. When symptoms persist, individuals should seek proper medical advice to confirm whether the infection is bacterial or viral, and discuss the possibility of getting a targeted medication instead of a broad-spectrum remedy. The age-old wisdom for getting over viruses is still the best: rest, drink plenty of liquids (bone broth is highly recommended) and wash hands often. This simple practice will also help to prevent the spread of the virus to others in the same household or workplace.
Two other causes of antibiotic resistance are hospital-borne infections and livestock raised with antibiotics. The only way to avoid meat-related antibiotics is to consume grass-fed, organic meats and dairy products; these animals are given no antibiotics or growth hormones, and are healthier than animals raised on factory farms.
Another crucial reason for limiting the use of antibiotics is that they destroy critical gut bacteria. Medications don’t discriminate between the bacteria that’s causing illness and those that constitute a healthy gut microbiome. With an imbalance or a poor diversity of gut flora, the immune system is weakened and prone to future illnesses.
Taking the right probiotics that help restore microbiota is important both during and after any course of medication. Talk to a functional medicine doctor about how to take probiotics while taking antibiotics—they must be taken far enough apart so the drug doesn’t kill off the live bacteria in the probiotic. Once the full course of medication is over, eating fermented foods will also help to restore gut bacteria.
Dr. Doug Pucci, DC, FAAIM, adheres to a functional medicine approach to patient care and believes in treating underlying, root causes of disease. In practice, he provides nutrition, advanced testing for hormones and gut microbiome, blood testing, epigenetics and brain/body well-being. For more information, call 201-261-5430 or visit GetWell-Now.com.