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Antibiotics have changed our world. They have saved people from illnesses that used to kill people and they certainly have their place in modern medicine. But they also can create many health problems and in some cases even lead to long-term consequences and even death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that antibiotics are responsible for sending 142,500 people to emergency rooms each year. That is why you need to consider whether taking antibiotics is worth the risk factors and talk to your health care provider about other treatments that could be used instead of antibiotics.
Here are five reasons you should avoid antibiotics:
Risk of severe side effects
Some classes of antibiotics like fluoroquinolones have severe side effects. The common drugs in this class include Avelox, Cipro, and Levaquin. Men should take note because these potentially dangerous antibiotics are commonly prescribed for prostate conditions such as prostatitis. And the worst of it is that these antibiotics are unnecessary because about 95 percent of prostatitis cases are not related to bacteria, so the antibiotics don’t even work to fix the problem and can actually make the problem worse by destroying the beneficial bacteria in the body.
The side effects associated with these drugs can cause permanent damage. They are so severe that they contain an FDA black box warning on their packaging and patient inserts that state that these drugs can cause tendon damage and permanent peripheral neuropathy. That is nerve damage that causes tingling, numbness, pain, weakness and change in sensation. These drugs may exacerbate muscle weakness in people with myasthenia gravis. They can also cause tendon rupture and joint swelling, skin reactions, loss of memory and even psychosis. Additional side effects can include kidney damage, vision problems, retinal detachment, hearing problems and heart damage. These side effects are certainly not what the doctor prescribed and are on top of the gastrointestinal effects associated with these and other antibiotics.
Certain bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, and the widespread overuse of antibiotics has already led to the development of drug-resistant harmful bacteria. You may already have heard of the difficult-to-treat and dangerous methicillin-resisitant staph aureus (MRSA). When you use antibiotics for every little minor illness, the bacteria in your body build a resistance to them, increasing the likelihood of them not working when you have a serious illness and legitimately need them later on.
Take a look at men who undergo a prostate biopsy. Research has found that prior use of a fluoroquinolone antibiotic like Cipro is a “significant risk factor behind rising incidence of acute prostatitis after transrectal prostate biopsy.” Researchers found that men who had previously taken antibiotics for other conditions in the past had more complications due to bacteria when recovering from their prostate biopsy because the men had become resistant to the antibiotics and suffered infections.
You might associate yeast infections with women, but when you take an antibiotic it does not just kill off the “bad” bacteria that you want to target. It also kills off the “good” or beneficial bacteria, yeasts, and microflora present in your gut. These beneficial microbes help keep the harmful bacteria in your mouth and intestines at safe and normal levels. When you upset this balance with an antibiotic, other microbes have a chance to take over. Yeast in your intestines and on your skin can take over and lead to yeast skin infections in warm moist areas of the body like your groin or armpits.
When the beneficial bacteria in your gut are killed off, there are some bacteria that do not respond to the antibiotics. Common antibiotics like penicillin, erythromycin, and sulfa drugs do not kill off the bacterium Clostridium difficile. This bacterium does no harm in small numbers, but when an overgrowth of it occurs such as after you take these antibiotics you can get a foul-smelling diarrhea that may also be accompanied by a fever and dehydration. Some people need hospitalization.
Treatment involves yet another antibiotic that can kill this organism. In addition to diarrhea, other antibiotics can cause nausea, vomiting and other gastrointestinal problems.
Antibiotics may be unnecessary
Millions of unnecessary antibiotic are prescribed each year. If you take antibiotics when you don’t actually need them they also can destroy your health and immunity. Widespread use of antibiotics creates superbugs, bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.
Whether you have a sore throat or think you have a urinary tract infection, ask your doctor to perform a culture so you know if bacteria are even the cause of your symptoms. If they suspect bacteria, have them find out which bug they are trying to treat. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, or any other drug for that matter, ask questions. Find out why he or she is prescribing that drug. Ask about the side effects and warnings for that drug. Also, ask if the drug is necessary. Is there a drug-free, natural, or alternative treatment that may also be effective?
If you do need antibiotics, support your immunity and gut health by taking a high quality probiotic, so you can restore your balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. Taking probiotic supplements can help repopulate the colon with the beneficial flora, which can help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Improved gut health can help your whole body stay healthy and prevent future illnesses because much of your immune system is located in the gut. Finding other natural therapies (like supplements and diet) can help promote your natural immunity and support your health so in the future you can avoid the scary side effects and risks associated with taking antibiotics.
Ekici S et al. Fluoroquinolone-resistant acute prostatitis requiring hospitalization after transrectal prostate biopsy: effect of previous fluoroquinolone use as prophylaxis or long-term treatment. Int Urol Nephrol 2011 May 6.
Mosharafa AA et al. Rising incidence of acute prostatitis following prostate biopsy: fluoroquinolone resistance and exposure is a significant risk factor. Urology 201 Sep; 78(3): 511-14
Ozden E et al. Incidence of acute prostatitis caused by extended-spectrum beta-lactamase-producing Escherichia coli after transrectal prostate biopsy. Urology 2009 Jul; 74(1): 119-24.