Even with public awareness campaigns by the WHO (World Health Organization) and other authorities, the over-prescribing of antibiotics continues. We can’t blame patients for this necessarily because we are at the mercy of our health care providers to determine the need. Even with these educational programs expanding, recent information I obtained from the CDC website (cdc.gov) covers some pretty staggering statistics:
- At least 30% of antibiotic courses prescribed in the outpatient setting are unnecessary, meaning that no antibiotic is needed at all. Most of this unnecessary use is for acute respiratory conditions, such as colds, bronchitis, sore throats caused by viruses, and even some sinus and ear infections
- Total inappropriate antibiotic use (which includes unnecessary antibiotic use plus inappropriate antibiotic selection, dosing, and duration) may approach 50% of all outpatient antibiotic use
- Antibiotics cause 1 out of 5 emergency department visits for adverse drug events (ADEs)Antibiotics are the most frequent cause of ADEs leading to emergency department visits in children, and 7 of the top 10 drugs involved in ADEs leading to emergency room visits are antibiotics.
This blog isn’t designed to have you stop taking antibiotics. It’s purpose is to have you become more educated and not be afraid to question your health care provider about your prescription and to help you prepare your body with supplement that will either help decrease the side effects of antibiotic use or help support your immune system in general.
Case 1: You need to take an antibiotic
Yes, antibiotics are needed at times and we all need to face that fact. Taking antibiotics can often lead to several digestive side effects of which diarrhea is the most common. This usually occurs because the good bacteria normal found in your small and large intestine are usually susceptible to the effects of the antibiotic just like the bacteria causing your infection. Antibiotics don’t discriminate and will destroy the bacteria that are too weak to withstand their impact. Going back to pharmacy school, I learned that we should suggest a probiotic for patients we dispensed an antibiotic. The idea is to help put back some of the “good-guys” the antibiotic is destroying. I would even suggest this for children and fragile seniors or anyone in a weakened state of health. This is still a great idea. Recently I did learn of a specific bacterium that has been studied for its ability to be more tolerant to antibiotics called PA5051. You may have seen me mention this in previous blogs because of its ability to survive heat and digestive acids because of it being a second generation of probiotics that are plant-based. For those of us who have no choice and need an antibiotic, taking PA5051 would be one of my top suggestions.
Case 2: You are currently not sick
In the case of “preventative” health care, I have several suggestions to help keep your immune system functioning at its optimal abilities. Yes supplements work great but here are some other suggestions that are needed:
- Get your rest- Sleep at least 8.5 hours per night
- Avoid sugar- sugar weakens the immune system in multiple ways
- Exercise- 30 minutes of brisk walking per day boosts immune health
- Manage Stress- chronic stress is a huge burden on the immune system
- Don’t over-exercise- extended periods (45+ or more) of cardio will stress the immune system
- Eat a diet high in fiber, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds.
- Avoid fruit juices
With regards to supplements there are an abundance of supplements that can help depending on your situation i.e. the reason your may end up with a weak immune system. Too often people focus just on their immune system and forget that part of the root issue is related to something else. Probiotics are a great start for year-round support. Here’s why:
It is estimated that 70-percent of immune health originates in the digestive system. Taking a probiotic is a great start. Probiotics are one of my key supplements that help promote a healthy digestive system. They benefit immune health in many ways through the digestive system by:
- They help neutralize disease-causing bacteria (pathogens) by keeping a healthy balance in the small and large intestines.
- Detoxification of the body while promoting healthy digestion of key nutrients in our food and supplements that can support immune system functionality.
- Reinforce the barrier function of the intestinal lining, lowering the chance of bacteria in the intestines entering into the blood stream. This function may decrease infections and immune related reactions
- Inflammation and the immune system are also closely tied, with inflammation acting as a signal to trigger an immune response. So if too much unhealthy food is causing inflammation in the gut, this can cause the immune system to go into overdrive, triggering other problems. In addition, repeated activation of the immune system can cause it to become unresponsive, allowing infections to take hold more easily.