why antibiotics are not (always) the answer
While I would never recommend against antibiotics for pneumonia or meningitis, along with immune suppressants, it has become the go-to, simple fix for almost anything that comes down the pike. Sinus infection- antibiotic. Ear infection - antibiotic. Urinary tract infection- antibiotic. These infections rarely lead to death or long-term consequences, and there are natural (less intense treatments for all of these. Sinus infections can sometimes be averted with regular flushing of salt water!
I'm not against antibiotics. Trust me I get it. As a doctor it is amazing to have something that works almost every time and knocks it out of the park. But what regular antibiotic use in the industrial world is doing is disrupting the critical relationship we have with nature growing in and on us. Our flora, the bacteria each of us harbors, outnumber our own cells by a ratio of 10:1. To the normal inhabitants of our digestive tract, mouth, and eyes, a round of antibiotics is like Noah's flood coming through. And the majority of antibiotics prescribed for common infections act against a broad spectrum of bugs, despite the known advantage of narrow spectrum drugs for broader coverage. This means even the great diversity of bugs we contain cannot resist the assault.
But what about the young boy who has three repeat ear infections in one fall-winter season? Ear infections are painful and nothing a parent wants their child to endure, but three courses of antibiotics in a short period of time is going to be like a scene from Mad Max in his gut, over and over again. Add to this the fact that courses of antibiotics aren't typically accompanied by probiotics and by the following spring, would we be surprised that he may be having aggravated allergies or frequent digestive upset? No.
The goal in that case is not to stand by, drink echinacea tea, and hope it doesn't happen again. But it also doesn't have to be filling another antibiotic script. The goal should be to look for what else may be contributing to or causing those infections in the first place. Likely culprits in my opinion could be a high sugar diet, stress or anxiety from agressive scholastic demands, or a gallon-per-week love of phelgm producing dairy that could be making causing the susceptibility in the first place. The warning signs for all those things happen slowly over time, and often aren't even noticed as a change. And in this busy world, things like those happens to all of us.
Sometimes there isn't a contributing cause, or one can't be found. In those cases, there are effective herbal treatments for regular infections. Herbal anti-microbials function great and yet frequently lack the same broad spectrum activity the pharmaceuticals do. One example of this is Garlic - powerful to have been used to treat MRSA, yet tends to spare the lactobacillus bacteria that are one of the main inhabitants of the digestive tract. That's amazing. That's nature.
There is a time and place for antibiotics, for severe conditions and emergencies. But for the "garden variety" illnesses, we need to look through a more holistic lens and at least treat without prescriptions when possible. To be successful, this will require more restraint and patience on the part of the doctor, as well as fewer demands for antibiotics from patients.
Preserve your good bugs!