Antibiotics- Wonder Drugs Gone Awry

taking prescription pill with milkWith the kids preparing to head back to school, many of you might be considering how you can beat the bugs that are inevitably passed around from student to student. The media is promoting the flu vaccine, which we will discuss a bit later in this article, but before we go there let’s look at history and the development of antibiotic thinking. We’ll look at some of the recent problems with the overuse of antibiotics and discuss some natural remedies that bolster a healthy immune system.

Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary states that an antibiotic is a natural or synthetic substance that destroys microorganisms or inhibits their growth. Antibiotics are used to treat infectious diseases in plants, animals and humans.

Louis Pasteur is credited with the discovery that bacteria spread infectious disease. He discovered this during the late 1800’s and this became the basis for the germ theory as the cause of disease in modern day medical thinking. A colleague of his, Antoine Bechamp, disputed Pastuers theory at the time. Bechamp believed that the spread of disease was more a result of a favorable environment called the “terrain”. These gentlemen battled for years trying to argue their point of view. Before they both died however they came to an agreement that they were both correct in their thinking. Germs do cause disease but germs need the proper environment to be able to grow. However by the time this happened the medical community at the time had already accepted the Pasteur approach and Bechamps ideas were rejected.

This thinking of course led to the development of antibiotics in the 1930’s and antibiotics have been called the “wonder drugs” of the 20th century. That analogy has changed over the last few years especially since the onset of newer broad-spectrum antibiotics being used to treat all types of conditions. The medical community is well aware of antibiotic resistant organisms. Diseases that were eradicated many years ago are coming back with a vengeance, such as, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, staph, strep, pneumonia and enteroccoci. Current medical research is having difficulty finding ways to treat these new strains of bacteria. I also want to clarify the antibiotics are life saving especially in the proper circumstances. It is when they have been used inappropriately that this resistance has been able to develop.

Overly prescribed antibiotics are part of the problem. Antibiotics treat bacteria not viruses. If you take an antibiotic for a cold or flu it is not going to take care of the problem. Antibiotics are also considered to be immune suppressive. This means that they affect your own body’s immunity, in sense weaken it especially when under viral attack.

The heavy use of antibiotics in agriculture is another area of concern. Farmers have been inoculating their animals with antibiotics. Rather than isolate sick animals, modern livestock practices routinely consume nearly 50 percent of all antibiotics manufacture red in this country by adding them directly to the animal feeds.

Due to this overuse of antibiotics virulent strains of bacteria have evolved and now pose a threat to human health without a way to stop them.

Let’s turn our attention to viruses. The word virus is the Latin word for poison. Viruses adapt and evolve according to environmental changes. A virus is little more than a clump of genetic material (RNA and DNA) bunched inside a protein package. It need a host to survive and lies dormant until activated. A virus infiltrates the human body and alters the rna and dna of cells so that it can survive and replicate. Some viruses are short lived like colds, flus, sore throats etc. Others are lifelong and will always reside in us, such as, hepatitis, Epstein barr, HIV, etc. Collectively viral infections represent the prime reason people visit doctors for medical care.

The two most prevalent viral infections are the common cold (rhinovirus) with over 100 strains. It is responsible for over 50 percent of the common cold and upper respiratory tract infections. The influenza virus is classified into three areas A, B, and C. The most common form is influenza A and usually it is epidemic in the late fall and winter.

This is the reason that the flu vaccine has become so popular. One problem I see is that many folks still get some form of influenza, even if inoculated, because of the different types floating about. The vaccine is usually for the most prevalent strain that researchers think will hit. Of course the vaccine is probably a good idea for those most at risk, which would include those with chronic pulmonary disease, valvular heart disease, and immune compromised individuals. Those elderly living in care homes with a history of long-term illness.

Since we cannot alter the fact that bacteria and viruses are around us all the time, it makes sense to me that it is important to work on changing the “terrain” as Bechamp expounded years ago. How do we do this? Specific foods and herbs have many antibiotic and antiviral properties. This means that they work to change the inner environment to resist them and they work to bolster the immunity so that the body protects itself. In traditional Chinese medicine the surface immunity is called the “wei chi”. A strong wei chi is attained through proper lifestyle habits and the use of specific herbs. It is interesting that most infectious organisms have a tendency to prefer sweet and acid conditions to be able to grow. Think about how much sugar you might consume.

Many of the herbs and foods have multiple properties and can be used to reduce the risk of infections. They would include the use of garlic, basil, oregano, thyme, and cayenne pepper to mention some kitchen herbs that can be used in your cooking. Others that you might be familiar with would include echinacea, goldenseal, astragalus, licorice root, elderberry, st john’s wort, the medicinal mushrooms and olive leaf extract.

Next time you feel the ill effects of the cold or flu consider what you might have done to the your “terrain” and do some research into the natural substances for relief. As one of my teachers taught me, when you treat the body with natural remedies it leaves the body stronger.

A good book to consider is Natural Alternative To Antibiotics by Ray C. Wunderlich, MD.

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