By Sarena-Rae Santos, Natural Health Blogger
If you’re reading this, like me, you’ve probably taken your fair share of antibiotics in your life.
Maybe you had a reaction or read an alarming article online and are looking for a safer option for yourself or your children.
My history with antibiotics is extensive. Between my childhood history of recurring strep throat and ear infections and other medical issues that “required” a permanent antibiotic in my adult years, I have had more than enough to last me a lifetime (and probably some antibiotic resistance). Thankfully, I took my last antibiotic dose in December of 2018 and have never looked back.
Although antibiotics are sometimes necessary to fight infections and diseases caused by bacteria, they are often overprescribed. While killing harmful bacteria, antibiotics also kill good bacterial strains that we need causing long-term health consequences that can often be avoided.
#1: They are Over-Prescribed
As per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), doctors prescribe about 47 million antibiotic courses yearly for infections that don’t need antibiotics (1). The unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics has resulted in about 1 in 3 people suffering from yeast-related symptoms or conditions like yeast and candida overgrowth (2).
#2 They Don’t Really Work
When fighting an infection, we must remember two main types of germs cause most infections – viruses and bacteria.
Viruses cause the common cold, seasonal flu, runny noses, and most cases of bronchitis, sore throats, and coughs. Antibiotics cannot kill viruses or help you feel better when you have a virus. Contrarily, bacteria cause strep throat, urinary tract infections, most ear infections, and some sinus infections (3). These are when antibiotics should be used, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to fill a prescription.
Unfortunately, antibiotics are often prescribed for viral illnesses, deeming them useless. The unnecessary usage of antibiotics can have detrimental effects on the body. Not to mention the overuse of antibiotics has also resulted in antibiotics losing their effectiveness.
#3 They Cause Antibiotic Resistance
Aside from the long list of side effects, anytime antibiotics are used, they can contribute to the pandemic of antibiotic resistance. This is because antibiotics increase antimicrobial resistance and are driven by a combination of germs exposed to antibiotics, the spread of those germs, and their mechanisms of resistance (4).
Although the CDC claims antimicrobial doesn’t mean our body is antibiotic resistant, the World Health Organization (WHO) admits the misuse (or overprescribing) of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the process (5). Unfortunately, in the U.S., more than 2.8 million antimicrobial-resistant infections occur each year, resulting in more than 35,000 deaths (6).
#4 They Damage Gut Health
Even a single antibiotic dose can lead to detrimental shifts in the composition and diversity of the gut flora (7). Additionally, antibiotics can also lead to long-term changes in the gut flora. After completing an antibiotic dose, most bacteria return after 1–4 weeks, but their numbers usually don’t return to the prior levels (8). Another study discovered that a single dose of antibiotics diminished the diversity of Bacteroides, one of the most dominant bacterial strains, and boosted the number of resistant strains. These consequences remained for up to two years (9)!
#5 They Can Cause Serious Side Effects
In 2015, healthcare providers prescribed 269.4 million antibiotic prescriptions—equivalent to 838 prescriptions per 1000 persons. The most commonly prescribed antibiotic was Azithromycin, and 46.2 million doses were prescribed (10). Like all medications, antibiotics have a long list of side effects, so let’s discuss the side effects of the most commonly prescribed antibiotic, Azithromycin (11):
- Abdominal or stomach cramps or pain (severe)
- Abdominal or stomach tenderness
- Black, tarry stools
- Bleeding gums
- Blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
- Blood in the urine or stools
- Bloody or cloudy urine
- Blurred vision
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Darkened urine
- Decreased urine output
- Diarrhea (watery and severe, which may be bloody)
- Difficult or labored breathing
- Difficulty with swallowing
- Dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up suddenly from a lying or sitting position
- Fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse
- Fever with or without chills
- General feeling of discomfort or illness
- Greatly decreased frequency of urination or amount of urine
- Hives or itching
- Increased thirst
- Irregular heartbeat recurrent
- Irregular or slow heart rate
- Joint pain
- Large, hive-like swelling on the face, eyelids, lips, tongue, throat, hands, legs, feet, or sex organs
- Light-colored stools
- Loose stools
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle pain
- Muscle twitching
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pains in the stomach, side, or abdomen, possibly radiating to the back
- Pinpoint red spots on the skin
- Puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
- Rapid weight gain
- Red skin lesions, often with a purple center
- Red, irritated eyes
- Skin rash
- Sore throat
- Sores, ulcers, or white spots in the mouth or on the lips
- Swelling of the face, mouth, neck, hands, and feet
- Swelling of the hands, ankles, feet, or lower legs
- Tightness in the chest
- Unusual bleeding or bruising
- Unusual tiredness or weakness
- Yellow eyes or skin
That’s not even counting antibiotic allergies, which the CDC claims only occurs in about 1% of the population (12). Unfortunately, reactions are grossly underreported, so we cannot say how many children and adults are truly allergic or experience severe side effects. What we can say is that research has shown there is a possible correlation between (13).
#6 There are Safer, More Effective Natural Alternatives
Addressing infections with natural alternatives is safer. Some other options, such as garlic and oil of oregano, are just as effective (if not more) as prescription antibiotics (14,15). My two favorite natural antibiotics are oil of oregano and fermented garlic honey.
Oil of Oregano has antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties, amongst many other beneficial properties (16,17,18). Oil of Oregano is made by infusing extra virgin olive oil with dried oregano leaves, creating a robust and ingestible “natural antibiotic” widely used in the natural community.
Fermented Garlic Honey has immunomodulatory, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties and relieves upper respiratory tract infection symptoms (19,20,21,22). Fermented Garlic Honey is made by fermenting garlic cloves in honey and also creates a “natural antibiotic” commonly used in the natural community.