WARNING: Antibiotic use in first week of life harms baby’s microbiome
(NaturalHealth365) By now, most people know we should treat antibiotics with caution. In addition to harming your gut – which relies on friendly bacteria to process food, regulate the immune system, and much more – there is also the danger of creating antibiotic-resistant superbugs that could have devastating consequences for the health of the human race.
Unfortunately, treating newborns with antibiotics – often as early as the first seven days after birth – is de rigeur in the world of Western medical science. But new studies have linked this practice with lasting decreases in health and digestive function for babies.
When is it appropriate to treat newborns with antibiotics?
The newborn constitution is a delicate one. It is not necessarily an overreaction to treat suspected infections in small babies, as they can become life-threatening in a relatively short period and with little warning. Neither should we assume that any antibiotic application is acceptable simply because it reduces the chances of a pathology for which doctors don’t have proof. Today – explains the study – broad-spectrum antibiotics are prescribed to between 4 and 10 percent of all newborns for suspected infections.
The “broad-spectrum” is key here. That means a battery of the most common antibiotics to be sure to knock it out. Too often, however, antibiotics are prescribed in cases they are not needed. And their overuse comes at a high cost.
The study included 147 infants with suspected sepsis and 80 with no suspected infections. The babies with suspected infections were prescribed one of three standard courses of antibiotics. Afterward, researchers collected a rectal or fecal sample from each baby at 1, 4, and 12 months. Here is what the study found.
Broad-spectrum antibiotics used in newborns may cause unintended harm
The study found several adverse outcomes for babies treated with antibiotics at such an early age.
- Antibiotics increase the baby’s antimicrobial resistance, meaning that if they were to need antibiotics later for a life-threatening condition, those antibiotics might not work as well.
- Newborns who received antibiotics demonstrated lower levels of the good bacteria (in this case, Bifidobacterium species) that make up the microbiome.
- Babies treated with antibiotics in the first week of life were less able to digest breastmilk from their mothers, which reduces the natural microbial protection it offers.
This is alarming, considering how important our microbiomes are to us throughout our lives. In fact, the colony of bacteria that makes up our microbiome contains 100 trillion microbes with 200 times as many genes as we have ourselves. Together, the microbiome can weigh up to 5 pounds, more than the brain, the heart, the liver, or a pair of lungs.
Protect the microbiome by taking a more cautious approach
This isn’t to say we should abandon antibiotics for newborns. Instead, we need to take a more careful approach than the standard ready-aim-fire used in hospitals today.
Experts quoted in the study affirm the wisdom of using fewer and better medicines. The least detrimental treatment protocol from the study was a combination of penicillin and gentamicin and is therefore preferable for future prescription.
As adults, we should continue to protect our microbiomes by avoiding antibiotics wherever possible and adopting natural antimicrobial measures. this way, we will maintain healthy bodies and ensure that, where truly needed, antibiotics continue to have lifesaving effects well in the future.
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