Naturopath and Holistic Health Expert
In this weeks article I will highlight risks of taking antibiotics and explore natural ways to build immunity and treat infections.
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Extensive use of antibiotics
If the first course of antibiotics fails doctors will often prescribe a second or third round. Whilst this may overcome the infection, extensive use of some antibiotics can damage organs and tissues like your liver and kidneys. Streptomycin, for example, can cause kidney damage and deafness. Whilst damage is rare in antibiotics that act only against the cells of pathogenic microbes, if you have recently finished a course of antibiotics or you have been taking them long-term, ask your doctor for a liver function test to check on the health of your liver.
If antibiotics don’t succeed in overcoming an infection, doctors may have to resort to less conventional medications, many of which have serious side effects. Ask and be informed about the side effects that may accompany your prescribed medication.
All antibiotics are able to produce allergic reactions, but such reactions occur most often with penicillins. Many allergic reactions are mild, producing only a rash or fever. But severe reactions can occur, even causing death. A physician will usually ask if a patient has ever had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic before prescribing that drug. Most people who are allergic to one antibiotic can use another antibiotic with a significantly different chemical composition.
Killing beneficial bacteria
Many antibiotics (especially broad spectrum antibiotics) kill both dangerous and beneficial microbes. Killing beneficial bacteria upsets the delicate balance in your intestines and can lead to what’s now termed a ‘superinfection’. New drugs are then needed to combat the new infection.
In addition, yeasts and parasites are left to grow unchecked into large colonies and take over, in a condition called ‘dysbiosis’. This produces more infections and an array of intestinal disorders.
How to protect yourself from the adverse effects of antibiotics:
1. Supplement with probiotics and eat foods that are rich in natural cultures
Such as yoghurt and cultured vegetables and drinks like Beet kvass, Kombucha and Kefir.
Probiotics in supplement form can be very helpful, but make sure you consult your health care practitioner regarding the right type for your infection and antibiotic use. There is such as thing as too much of a good thing! Some probiotics may encourage overgrowth of bacteria that will add to your symptoms. For example, Lactobacillus acidophilus, one of the most common bacteria found in probiotics, can cause a build-up of a substance called D-lactate in the gut, causing further unwanted symptoms.
2. Herbal Tea
If you experience nausea while taking antibiotics, try sipping ginger root, chamomile flower, aniseed, fennel seed or peppermint leaf tea to soothe your stomach. Teas such as raspberry leaf, thyme leaf or cinnamon bark tea can also help alleviate diarrhoea.
3. Milk Thistle
As antibiotics can be taxing on your liver, milk thistle may help detoxify, tone and protect this vital organ.
Antibiotic alternatives: How to Boost Your Immune System Naturally:
1. Sip on herbal teas
Rosehip is a wonderful, delicious tasting source of vitamin C on its own, or mix it with aromatic spices such as Cinnamon; Lemon myrtle has antiseptic, anti-viral and sedative actions and is indicated for colds and flu; Lemon and ginger are a traditional combination for soothing sore throats – an effect that can be enhanced by the addition of licorice root.
2. Herbal tinctures
Prescribed by your herbalist, can be powerful immune boosters. Olive leaf, Astragalus root, Manuka herb and Echinacea root are my immune-boosting favourites. Combine them with a high-quality probiotic and a good fermented cod liver oil (an old fashioned Northern European remedy for Winter strengthening, rich in vitamins A and D) for more targeted strengthening. See the following link to my article on the use of tinctures and other lifestyle measures that act as natural alternatives to antibiotics.
3. Biofilm disruptors
A biofilm may be encapsulating and protecting the unwanted microorganism from our immune defenses. It may therefore be beneficial to use a biofilm disruptor first, before the appropriate natural or pharmaceutical antimicrobials. There are a number of different nutrients that disrupt biofilm formation – with enzymes and herbs among the most common. Studies have shown that by using enzymes to degrade components of the pathogenic biofilm, infections in the lungs, sinuses and wounds are easier to clear. See your healthcare professional regarding the best type for you.
Using natural means to boost your immunity is a great way to help prevent the need for antibiotics and stop the rise of the superbug. See your natural health practitioner for further advice on the right ways to treat your condition.