When your doctor tells you that your cold symptoms are due to a virus (and not a bacterial infection), do you ask for antibiotics anyway, “just in case?” After all, what does it really hurt? Perhaps antibiotics will even help a little — sort of like adding an extra insurance policy to your virus — just in case there’s a little bit of bacteria in there somewhere.
Unfortunately, this type of reasoning, though very common, is false, and even harmful. The truth is that taking unnecessary antibiotics harms our bodies and continues to fuel the growing public health crisis of antibiotic resistance.
In a new study led by George Washington University, over half of the patients surveyed were well aware that antibiotics wouldn’t cure their viruses—but they still wanted to take them anyway “just in case.” These findings show the alarming misconceptions that much of the public still holds.
The researchers emphasize that public education materials need to be revised so that they inform about the specific dangers of taking unnecessary antibiotics—risks such as antibiotic resistance, secondary infections, allergic reactions, among others. Their findings appear in the journal Medical Decision Making.
“If patients think that antibiotics can't hurt, we can't just focus on telling them that they probably have a virus,” said David Broniatowski, assistant professor in GW's School of Engineering and Applied Science. “We need to let them know that antibiotics can have some pretty bad side effects, and that they will definitely not help cure a viral infection."
Taking unnecessary antibiotics can significantly contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Bacteria are always changing, adapting and learning to outsmart the current drugs. Although this is a natural process, taking unnecessary antibiotics helps speed up this phenomenon, sometimes leading to the development of “superbugs,” germs that are resistant to several types of antibiotics. More than 2 million Americans develop antibiotic-resistant infections each year, with more than 23,000 people dying annually from these infections and their complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Antibiotics Kill Good Bacteria
Believe it or not, you hold a fragile, living microbiome in your gut that is sensitive to whatever you put into it. Antibiotics not only kill the bad bacteria in your body but will wipe out many good ones as well. New research is proving again and again that we need good bacteria in order to stay healthy. Many physical and mental disorders can be traced back to a dysfunction in gut bacteria. In fact, if you do take antibiotics, it is very important to follow up with probiotics to help restore your good bacteria.
Mother Nature has been providing us with anti-bacterial and anti-viral remedies for thousands of years (without the negative side effects). Here are just a few of nature’s healing agents that you can take the next time you’re sick:
- Honey: a natural antibiotic that fights infection on multiple levels and won’t interfere with the natural growth process of bacteria. Honey is also well-known for its soothing effect on painful sore throats.
- Garlic: a miracle spice that is anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Research has found that garlic may be effective against drug-resistant bacteria.
- Elderberry: a flowering plant that appears to be particularly effective against the influenza virus. In a recent study, more than 90 percent of patients taking elderberry extract showed a significant reduction in influenza symptoms after just two days and made a complete recovery after three days. For those in the control group, however, it took six days before 90 percent of the patients even showed an improvement.
- Turmeric: you probably know that turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory spice, but did you know that it is also a natural antibiotic and anti-viral agent? This powerful spice increases protein levels in the body that can help protect the immune system from both bacteria and viruses.
- Coconut Oil: this healing oil is anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. According to Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D. and author of The Coconut Oil Miracle: "Laboratory tests have shown that the MCFAs (medium chain fatty acids) found in coconut oil are effective in destroying viruses that cause influenza, measles, herpes, mononucleosis hepatitis C, and AIDS; bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers, throat infections, pneumonia, sinusitis, urinary tract infections, meningitis, gonorrhea, and toxic shock syndrome; fungi and yeast that lead to ringworm, candida, and thrush; and parasites that can cause intestinal infections such as giardiasis."