Conventional doctors and veterinarians prescribe antibiotics because that is how they were trained to respond to an infection in a patient. Their medical training does not provide them with any other options to deal with infections. Medical training teaches future healthcare professionals that bacteria must be attacked and killed in order to stop infection.
Are there side effects to antibiotic use?
The gastro-intestinal tract is a mini-eco system of bacteria. It is well documented that antibiotics disturb the natural balance of flora in the gut as they kill off all types of bacteria, good and bad. When the gut flora becomes damaged and out of balance this causes disruptions in the function of the immune system. Opportunistic flora is then able to flourish which causes a further decline in health.
"All disease begins in the gut"
How the gut becomes colonized with bacteria, or not…
With mammals, colonization of the gut begins when the animal is in still in its mother’s womb. Small amounts of amniotic fluid containing microbes is swallowed in utero. During natural birthing the newborn animal becomes exposed to a large amount of bacteria from its mother, promoting further colonization in the newborn. Any imbalances in the mother’s flora will be passed along to her offspring. In humans it has been found that babies born by cesarean section have disturbed gut flora for up to six months. Seeing how the gut flora and immune system are so closely interdependent on each other, we can see how an unnatural birth contributes to a weakened immune system. Breastfeeding in humans has been found to have many protective health benefits largely in part to its effects on the gut flora. It is reasonable to think that the same benefits are present in all mammals. The process of colonization continues through interaction between the newborn and its environment.
Human infants given antibiotics closely after birth are shown to have a disruption of their gut flora that can last for months up to several years and have an impact on their long term health. Again, it is likely that the same impact after taking antibiotics can be seen in all mammals.
Antibiotic resistance – the bigger picture
Antibiotic resistance evolves naturally through mutation, allowing the pathogen to survive and reproduce despite antibiotic use. Factors that contribute towards this resistance include overuse, improper use and the practice of feeding antibiotics to livestock to promote growth and combat poor conditions. The pharmaceutical industry is continually coming out with more and more powerful antibiotics, yet they are unable to stay ahead of the mutations causing drug resistances.
Staph aureus or Staph infection developed a resistance to penicillin in 1947, only four years after the drug had started being mass-produced. MRSA was first reported in 1961 and is now the most frequently identified drug resistant pathogen in US hospitals. More and more cases of MRSA are being diagnosed in pets as well. Since 2007 more people in the US die each year from MRSA than AIDS. Unless the over abundant use of antibiotics is curtailed dramatically, resistant bacteria strains will continue to be a threat to human and animal health.
Antibiotics in our food and water
Even if your animal has never taken a course of antibiotics, they have most likely consumed them nonetheless. Seventy percent of all antibiotics sold in the US are given to (healthy) livestock. That is nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics each year. This high volume is used to thwart the effects of overcrowding, poor sanitation and to promote faster growth. These livestock are food animals, destined to be consumed by humans and other animals. A study at Stanford University concluded that consumers eating meat raised without antibiotics are 33% less likely to contract antibiotic resistant infections that those eating conventionally raised products. Interesting…
All these antibiotics also make their way into the water supply eventually. Most water treatments do not remove all drug residues and very few states even test for drug residue in drinking water.
Do antibiotics actually help the patient?
Most times antibiotics will appear to give temporary success, yet the problem often recurs if there are no changes of lifestyle to address why the infection was able to take hold in the first place. Disease cannot thrive in a healthy environment. Germs do not need to be feared. Germs do not cause disease. Poor living habits create disease.
Changing our thinking
As a society we turn to antibiotics for every minor ailment, many of which are not even bacterial in nature. We demand the drugs from our doctors and veterinarians. This practice needs to stop! We need to focus on encouraging healthy habits and allow the body to recover from minor infections naturally. Let the immune system do it's job! As for the amount of antibiotics currently in our food and water supply, changes will only come about when more consumers support locally produced, naturally raised food. As the demand for healthier food increases producers will change their practices. I believe that as more people gain a better understanding about the health threats associated with today's out of control antibiotic usage they will make better choices.