The Overuse Of Antibiotics

As Public Health England puts out yet another warning about the risks of antibiotic resistance it is clear that we need to do more to tackle this growing concern, otherwise previously ‘safe’ operations or ‘minor’ illnesses could become much more of a threat. Why? We treat many seemingly trivial infections that develop after surgery with a quick course of antibiotics before sending people home. But what if those infections no longer respond to antibiotics? And the skin, ear or chest infections that are rapidly cleared up with a few tablets may start to become much more severe and difficult to treat.

Why are we starting to get antibiotic resistance and how can we reduce it? Find out more in my article from a couple of years ago. And it’s not just overuse in humans, but in our food chain too. How many antibiotics have been pumped into the animals we are eating that then filter through to us?

Antibiotic use is not just damaging us, it’s damaging our gut bacteria too. A recent study has shown that antibiotics can wipe out many of our gut bacteria and though most return after 6 months, 9 of the common species may not reappear and could potentially be replaced with less ‘healthy’ ones. Why does this matter? Increasing number of studies are showing that healthy gut bacteria are associated with our own health in many ways – from our weight to our risk of heart disease, dementia and more.

If you do have antibiotics, consider taking probiotics to replace your healthy gut bacteria. But, as another article this week has highlighted, probiotic tablets and live yoghurts are of variable benefit depending on the type of preparation you choose. Live yoghurts with added sugar, for example, are likely to be killing off the very bacteria they aim to increase! As with any food or supplement, read labels carefully and aim to buy the best you can.

Reducing antibiotic exposure should be a priority now if we want to improve our chances of staying healthy, trim and mentally on-the-ball for the future.