There’s no doubt antibiotics have saved a lot of lives.
But because they’ve been overprescribed for so many years we’ve ended up with a slew of health problems.
For one thing, overuse of antibiotics wreaks havoc on your microbiome…
That’s your body’s ecosystem.
Your microbiome has 100 trillion or so bacteria, viruses and fungi. It affects just about every organ and body system.
Some of these gut bugs cause disease and infection. But other good bacteria are called “probiotics.” They boost your immune system. They help you digest your food and turn it into vitamins.
But in your gut, antibiotics kill off good bacteria along with the bad. When that happens, your immune system gets weak. Your risk of obesity and heart disease goes up. So do rates of allergies, asthma, autism and autoimmune diseases.1
And now shocking new research says antibiotics can even spike your risk of bowel cancer. And it can happen in just two weeks!
A study in the journal Gut looked at data from 16,000 women over 60 years old. They were part of the famous Nurses Health Study.2 Results showed that taking antibiotics increased their risk of getting adenomas or polyps. These are growths on the lining of the bowel that can become cancerous.
Women who took antibiotics in their 20s and 30s for as little as 15 days to two months increased their risk by up to 36%. It was worse for those who took these drugs in their 40s and 50s for longer periods of time. They increased their risk by up to 69%.
In other words, the older you are when you take these rugs, the higher your risk. Overall, women who took antibiotics on a long-term basis increased their risk by up to 73%. That was compared to women who did not take them.
And it’s not just bowel cancer…
A study in the International Journal of Cancer looked at over 3 million people. It linked antibiotic use with an increased risk of other cancers. They included breast, lung and prostate cancers.3
This research is very concerning given how widespread antibiotic use has become. In the U.S., roughly 40% of all adults and 70% of all children take at least one of these drugs a year.
I advise my patients to talk to their doctors about natural alternatives to antibiotics.
But the problem isn’t just with the script your doctor writes. Every year, factory farms feed millions of pounds of these drugs to livestock. You’re exposed every day when you eat meat from those animals. And fruits and vegetables are sprayed with antibiotics to control bacteria on the crops.
So even if you never take antibiotics, you must still protect your microbiome. You can help the good bugs in your gut flourish with a few simple steps.
3 Simple Steps to Protect Your Microbiome
1. Don’t kill off your good bugs — feed them. Additives and chemicals kill off your good flora, especially artificial sweeteners like Splenda.4 And sugar and starches feed bad bugs that can kill the good ones.
Instead, feed your good bugs with inulin. This special fiber resists digestion from the small intestine. It reaches the large intestine intact and feeds the good microbes. Good sources are bananas, asparagus, onions, garlic, leeks, artichokes and dandelions. Peas and beans are also good choices.
2. Eat fermented foods. These foods are loaded with probiotics. They restore the good bacteria in your digestive system. I recommend fermented milk products like yogurt and kefir. Eat more of these during and after a course of antibiotics. Just be sure to avoid commercial products with added sugars, flavorings, preservatives, and thickeners. The ingredients should say milk and “live, active cultures” — that’s it.
Lacto-fermented veggies also deliver billions of good microbes. Kimchi and raw sauerkraut are great choices. But avoid canned or packaged versions. The processing kills good bacteria.
3. Take a probiotic supplement. You can find probiotics as liquids, powders, tablets or capsules. The live microbes in probiotics slow the growth of bad bacteria and help maintain the right balance of the good ones.
Look for capsules that guarantee 10-20 billion CFUs (colony forming units) at the expiration date. This is key. Probiotics are very sensitive to heat, humidity, pH levels and oxygen. Between the time of packaging and the time you take them, billions of the bacteria may die off. The best products are refrigerated to protect the good bugs.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Logan, A.C. et al. “Immune–microbiota interactions: dysbiosis as a global health issue.” Curr. Allergy Asthma Rep. 2016; 16: 13.
2. Cao Y, Wu K, Mehta R, et al. “Long-term use of antibiotics and risk of colorectal adenoma.” Gut Published Online First: 04 April 2017. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2016-313413.
3. Kilkkinen A, Rissanen H, Klaukka T, et al. “Antibiotic use predicts an increased risk of cancer.” Int J Cancer. 2008 Nov 1;123(9):2152-5. doi: 10.1002/ijc.23622.
4. Abou-Donia, et al, “Splenda Alters Gut Microflora and Increases Intestinal P-Glycoprotein and Cytochrome P-450 in Male Rats,” Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 2008; 71(21):1415–1429.