Antibiotics for viral infections, including ear infections. I'm sick, so my doctor gave me an antibiotic... Time and again, I come across situations where I am asked about using antibiotics and their potential effects on the body. Firstly, I never want to totally dismiss antibiotics, as they are an absolutely necessary cure to many conditions. Without question, antibiotics have saved millions of lives, and we would not want to live in the 21st century without them. Although antibiotics have dramatically decreased deaths from infectious disease, there is a cost.
The problem with antibiotics comes how often they are over-prescribed and misused in unnecessary situations. The purpose for antibiotics is to attack and destroy bacterial infections. They have zero benefits for viral infections, although they are often used in these situations. For example, an individual may be suffering from a common cold, and one of the symptoms may be a sore throat. This individual might misinterpret this sore throat for a bacterial infection, such as strep, and therefore take an antibiotic for a few days. However, we know that the common cold is from a virus, so the antibiotic will do nothing to decrease the illness in this case.
So let’s go back to the purpose of antibiotics: to destroy bacterial infections. It’s true that the antibiotics will attack problem-causing bacteria, and do so effectively. The issue is that we have a lot of good bacteria in our bodies that we need, and the antibiotics can’t tell the difference between good and bad. The antibiotics act like napalm, wiping out everything in their path, including the good bacteria. There are trillions of bacteria in our gut, functioning to control immunity, regulate digestion and intestinal function, protect against infection, and even produce vitamins and nutrients.
When antibiotics destroy these beneficial bacteria, it may lead to numerous problems such as food allergies, fatigue, skin issues, poor immunity and of course, digestive issues. This void also opens the door for overgrowth of harmful bugs, such as yeast and candida, which can encourage cravings of sugary junk foods, leading to overeating and weight gain. These side effects may take a long time to regulate. A study published in The American Society of Microbiology revealed that a one-week regimen of antibiotics might negatively affect the gut for up to one year.
So what should you do if you absolutely must use an antibiotic? I would start by adding in some good things. Eating a whole food, healthy diet while adding in a high-quality probiotic will help populate your gut with beneficial bacteria to prepare for antibiotic treatment. Once finished using the antibiotics, it is time to focus on repair. Gut-healing supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and vitamin A will help repair the intestinal lining that might become damaged. Supplementing digestive enzymes will also help aide in digestion while the gut biome is repairing itself. Following a few of these simple guidelines will help balance some of the negative side effects of using antibiotics.
Yours in Health, Dr. Alex