Saturday, January 19, 2008

Antibiotics - Probiotics

Modern medicine has conjured a deep fear of microbes that has led to gross over-use of antibiotics, most commonly for sinus and ear infections. Antibiotic literally means "against life", but is largely used to refer to medications that kill bacteria. Many of these medications are derived from mycotoxins produced by fungi for the purpose of killing competing bacteria. What most doctor's don't tell you is that many of the antibiotics they prescribe kill not only harmful bacteria, but also health promoting bacteria. Not only that, but when bacteria are suppressed, fungi can go into a feeding frenzy and multiply like crazy. And most fungi are not beneficial. What's worse, antibiotics also depress our immune system, allowing unaffected microbes to flourish. And furthermore, over-use of antibiotics creates antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that can take advantage of any depressed immune system. Consequently, antibiotics should be reserved for only the most severe bacterial infections.

Most people don't realize there are many more microbes in our bodies than human cells, by at least a factor of two or three. We are really symbiotic cultures of human cells and microbes. Most of these microbes are in our digestive system and can weigh as much as three or four pounds. When we are healthy, most of the microbes are beneficial bacteria that help us digest our food and even add nutrients to our system and help support our immune health. This is "symbiosis". Taking powerful antibiotics greatly damages this symbiotic system by killing the beneficial bacteria and allowing harmful microbes, mainly fungi and resistant bacteria, to multiply, causing "dysbiosis". These unfriendly microbes can damage the mucosal lining of the intestines allowing undigested harmful proteins and chemicals to enter the body and the bad microbes can also generate toxins that are absorbed into our body. Dysbiosis often leads to food allergies and may trigger auto-immune diseases, which are malfunctions of our immune system. Dysbiosis may also cause or contribute to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

We are born without beneficial microbes in our digestive system, but mother's milk provides a host of beneficial microbes that quickly colonize our infant digestive systems. The microbes change in composition over time, influenced largely by the foods we eat. These beneficial microbes serve as our first line of defense in combating harmful microbes. When they are healthy, they can out-compete undesirable microbes and may even kill them directly. So, it is imperative to eat foods that promote the beneficial microbes. These can be foods that feed the microbes or foods that actually have live beneficial microbes to re-enforce the supply in our system. Foods with live beneficial microbes are called probiotic, which literally means "for life". Some of the best probiotic foods are raw dairy, fermented dairy such as kefir and yogurt, fermented beverages such as kombucha and beet kvass, and lacto-fermented vegetables such as traditional sauerkraut and pickles (unpasteurized). Foods that benefit the good microbes are called "prebiotic" and include vegetable foods with oligosaccharides. Foods high in refined sugar and refined carbohydrates may in quantity promote microbes that are not beneficial. Maintaining proper digestion is critical to our health.

So what can we do to avoid antibiotics? Ideally keep our immune system as healthy as possible to avoid infections in the first place. That means eating plenty of nutrient dense foods and minimizing dietary sugar, refined carbohydrates, and omega-6 fats that can hamper immune function. Also, eating foods with good saturated fats, such as pastured animal and dairy fats and coconut oil, helps to boost immune function. And consuming probiotic foods helps to maintain beneficial bacteria in the digestive system, which in turn helps to boost immune function. Choosing fresh organic foods and staying away from factory processed/packaged foods loaded with harmful food additives, preservatives, and pesticides also helps to reduce the burden on our immune system.

When infections do manage to bring illness, we need to boost the functioning of our immune system - preferably by diet as much as possible. Taking additional probiotic foods and/or supplements may help against many infections, especially gastro-intestinal infections. Herbal medicines may also provide help against many infections. Consult a naturopathic physician or herbal medicine practitioner for diagnosis and prescription. Bone broth is a traditional remedy that can also help our immune system fight many infections, Broth is Beautiful.

For an in depth and well-referenced discussion of dysbiosis read:
"The causes of intestinal dysbiosis: a review"

12 comments:

Anna said...

Great post. I also reallly liked the link for the bone broth info.

I have read that microbes outnumber our own cells by as much as 10-to-1. We can't live without microbs so it makes a lot of sense to live well wit them.

Bryan - oz4caster said...

Thanks Anna. I really like that bone broth link too. And it's funny - I used to ask my wife why she would want to boil bones when she made broth - well now I know :)

I've seen estimates of the number of microbes in the human body ranging from 2 or 3 times to 10 times the number of human cells, but I think this uncertainty underscores how little we know yet about this symbiotic relationship. We have a lot more to learn I suspect.

Migraineur said...

Agree with Anna - that bone broth article is fantastic!

The bones are so soft after the long simmering in slighly acidic water that they are almost powdery. It's rather amazing seeing how soft they get.

Kelly said...

Bryan,

A naturopath friend suggested I try Colloidal Silver as an immune system builder instead of antibiotics for ear or throat infections. As much as I'm into natural foods, I've got a nursing background and it is sometimes difficult for me to get away from always thinking a drug is the first and best answer. I'm working on this though, as I learn what a twisted way of thinking this is. When my son had an earache yesterday, I gave him the children's dose of Colloidal Silver (and another dose this morning) and he hasn't complained of an earache since! (It must not have any taste either, he didn't fuss at all about taking it.)

I love your blog,
Kelly

Bryan - oz4caster said...

Thanks Kelly. I have been enjoying your Kelly the Kitchen Kop blog and recommend it highly. I have never used colloidal silver though I understand that it was used in the past as an antibiotic, but fell out of favor when faster acting sulpha drugs were invented. I checked to see what Dr Cowan recommends for infectious illness in his book "The Fourfold Path to Healing". He suggests bone broth mixed with coconut milk, and avoiding foods high in sulfur, including meat and eggs. He also says a good way to ensure adequate intake of anti-microbial fatty acids is to consume 2 tbsp of coconut oil mixed with water twice daily (for adults I suspect). He says vitamin A stores are depleted with fever and recommends doubling your normal dose of high vitamin cod liver oil.

Bryan - oz4caster said...

Kelly, I just saw this newsletter article from Dr Mercola on Simple Spray Cures Kid's Colds about the effectiveness of sea water based saline nasal sprays in reducing cold and flu related nasal symptoms in children. The article refers to a Reuters News article on a study performed on 401 children ages 6-10. Dr Mercola also mentions that in his experience one of the best treatments for colds and flu is to put a few drops of common 3% hydrogen peroxide in the ears. He says it is safe, very effective, and inexpensive.

Kelly said...

Bryan,
Now my daughter is having cold symptoms, so I'm going to try the peroxide drops! I've also been pushing the bone broth this week. :)
Thanks for the tips,
Kelly

Anonymous said...

I have a viral infection of sorts that feels like it is in my lungs. I started taking Colloidal Silver yesterday (I feel the improvement already) but I am also taking probiotics and I am not sure that I should be taking them at the same time. Does anyone know if I should continue taking both or wait to take the probiotics after I finish with the silver?

Many thanks.
Laura

Bryan - oz4caster said...

Laura, colloidal silver has been shown to kill many harmful bacteria in the test tube at 5 ppm concentrations, but I'm not sure that it has been shown to inhibit or kill viruses at this concentration. Also, delivering the colloidal silver at that concentration to the bacteria or viruses in your body would require massive intake of silver and might give you argyria, where silver accumulates in the skin and causes it to turn gray. Drinking a solution of 5 ppm colloidal silver will not likely deliver 5 ppm of silver directly to the bacteria or virus colonies. It will be greatly diluted in the body. So, I am skeptical that it would have much effect at such low intake levels.

I personally think it's better to first support the body's immune system as much as possible when sick rather than taking medications that could have harmful side effects. I'd stick with high natural vitamin cod liver oil, bone broth, and probiotics if you tolerate them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info Brian. It turns out I had Pneumonia, I took antibiotics and I am now well again. I continued with the probiotics during and will take them for a while after and I also was taking oregono oil. My physician said not to take the Colloidal Silver and Antibiotics at the same time. Do you know if Colloidal Silver is something I should be taking to strengthen my immune system? Loved the bone broth, I was all over that! No wonder chicken soup is so comforting when you are sick.

Laura

Bryan - oz4caster said...

Laura, I prefer to strengthen my immune system by eating nutrient rich foods and getting sunlight and exercise. I don't believe we need to ingest a refined mineral like silver to achieve optimal health.

Margo said...

Foods rich in probiotics and a high quality probiotic supplement can be incorporated in a healthy diet aimed at weight reduction. If you’re overweight, prediabetic or already suffering from diabetes, you will definitely enjoy the power of the good bacteria.