Why are we so antibiotic resistant?
I have recently been working with a patient with a MRSA infection. They suffer with a skin infection that is resistant to treatment by almost all antibiotics on the market. They picked up the infection during a short visit to the hospital, and the infection is ruthless.
In another case, a patient was given antibiotics for an extreme case of strep throat, and had to go through 4 courses of differnet antibiotics before they were successful in kicking the infection. Why? Because their body was resistant to the first 3 strains of antibiotics.
These cases have led me to explore more thoroughly a question on so many minds: How did such nasty antibiotic resistant infections come to exist in our society, and why are so many of us resistant to treatment with antibiotics?
1. We are prescribed antibiotics too freely and often unnecessarily.
Antibiotics are not a preventative medicine. They are to be used when there is a serious bacterial infection. They do not work on viruses, only baceria. Too often patients are given antibiotics "just in case" the patient has a bacterial infection when in reality, it is a virus that they are fighting. Whether this is a severe sore throat that is suspected (but has not been diagnosed through culture) of being strep, or a woman in labor in the hospital who tests positive for strep B, (meaning she is susceptible to a bacterial infection) yet has no signs of active infection and is given an IV drip of antibiotics preventatively, antibiotics should not be used as a preventative medicine. There are effective alternatives in each of these cases to using antibiotics.
2. Antibiotics are everywhere. We are over exposed.
Those who know me well know that I am not an alarmist when it comes to health concerns. I do my research and stive to make educated conclusions. But there is someting very real in our socety that not enough people are talking about. Antibiotics are everywhere. Most alarmingly, they are in our food.
A huge majority of the non-organic (and non-GMO Free) produce available to us contains antibiotics. Most of it is grown from seeds that have been genetically modified to resist pests and disease, thus creating a higher yeild of produce. While this seems great-- increasing yeild, and decreasing price in the stores-- it is a double edged sword. These seeds contain antibiotics in order to do their job, or the crops are sprayed with pesticides containing antibiotics, and those antibiotics get passed on to the consumer. For more information about this, check out www.momsacrossamerica.com
In addition, high levels of antibiotics are given to conventionally raised farm animals to prevent disease in over-crowded feed lots. Again, these antibiotics accumulate and are passed on to the consumer. This is one more reason to eat organic and non-GMO.
3. Hand sanitizer is not equal to hand washing
Washing your hands is proven to decrease your susceptibility to cold and flu. While hand sanitizer may seem to do the same thing, think about what hand sanitizer actually does. It kills 99.9% of harmful bacteria. However, what about that remaining .1%? This leads to "super-strains" of bacteria that cause things like MRSA infections. When all other bacteria is killed off, it creates more room for these stronger strains to thrive.
4. Frequent exposure leads to resistance
The more we ingest anti-biotics, the less effective they are. Whether we are exposed unintentionally (via or food), or over-prescribed from our doctors, the more we take them, the less they work. This is how nasty bugs like MRSA infections come to run rampant in our society. Doctors are more regularly having to prescribe higher doses and stronger strains of antibiotics just to get to a level of minimal efficacy. This leads us to a point when they are no longer effective at all.
We need to change our view, as a society, of when antibiotics are necessary. We need to preserve this powerful medicine rather than dilute it through over exposure. So the next time you have a nasty head cold, please head to the acupuncturist for herbs and acupuncture, rather than the MD for a Z-Pak.