Antibiotics: Reviewing the Research

This week I thought I would introduce a review of some current research. Research is what good health care decisions should be based on. Unfortunately, a great deal of today's research in this country is funded by the pharmaceutical industry and you can guess as to which way the results get skewed.

I will present a condensed version of two studies from England and a very interesting article in the L.A. Times on the creation of super-resistant strains of bacteria.

Two studies published in the British Medical Journal (March 8, 1997) conclude that antibiotics given to patients are of no value in fighting common forms of tonsillitis, pharyngitis, and sinusitis. Studying more than 700 patients who had sore throats, researchers found that antibiotics did not alter the course of the illness. Most patients were better in three to five days whether they took the drugs or not. However, those who did swallow the medication were likely to believe that it was responsible for their cure, and were therefore inclined to come back for more if they became ill again. Another study of patients with badly inflamed sinuses (confirmed by x-ray study) compared the effectiveness of amoxicillin with sugar pills during acute flare-ups and for a one year period. There was no difference.

In the LA Times Lifestyle section (dated June 4, 1997), there was an interesting article on how we are creating resistant strains of bacteria (meaning antibiotics are not effective against them).

Dr. Stuart Levy of Tufts University says that the use of anti-bacterial soaps around the home may be helping to create stronger strains of bacteria. He feels that these soaps are being overused and that we should simply use plain old-fashioned soaps. At this time, he says that he has no direct evidence of drug resistant organisms evolving in households but is concerned because of the proliferation of drug-resistant bacteria from the "over-dependence on antibiotics" in our society.

The article goes on to say that many doctors are taking a new look at the use of antibiotics to fight such common afflictions as earaches, recognizing that physicians often prescribe them when there is no evidence of a bacterial infection.

Dr. Levy is also concerned about the amount of antibiotics that are in use today in agriculture. Farmers use them to promote the growth of cattle and to try and prevent certain diseases in fruits and vegetables. Antibiotics are a common component in feeds given to cows, pigs and chickens as well as fish raised in aquaculture. They are also sprayed on fields from crop-dusting airplanes. (Most health food stores carry organically grown fruits and vegetables as well as meats that are not injected with hormones or given antibiotics). Dr. Levy said that he fears that people will acquire bacterial strains simply by eating the foods that have been raised this way.

If you don't understand how resistant strains are formed, I will try to explain. When you take a dose of an antibiotic, it kills off most of the bacteria, but not all. The ones that remain were the strongest ones, but enough were killed off so that your bodies immune system can keep the remaining ones in check. When your resistance goes down, the strong ones now are able to multiply. In turn, you get sick and you run to the doctor for another antibiotic. It will again kill off most but not all the bacteria. Now you have the strongest of the strong bacteria remaining in your system. When you keep taking antibiotics you are creating stronger and stronger strains in your system. Please review Health Tip #4 as to the other side effects of antibiotics.

In conclusion, antibiotics have saved many lives over the years but many are feeling that they are being used too indiscriminately in our society. If you are getting recurrent infections, it is time for you to come in and find out what supplements, dietary changes, and lifestyle changes you need to make to get off the antibiotic bandwagon. Please confront your M.D. with the question, "Is this prescription you are giving me or my child for antibiotics absolutely necessary?" Or, "Do you have any other recommendations that may help me or my child other than antibiotics?" Many of my adult patients haven't had an antibiotic for years. Many of my patients' children have never needed an antibiotic. These patients treat themselves and their children with vitamins, homeopathics, various home remedies, acupuncture and spinal adjustments.