How taking antibiotics during childhood increases the risk of disease

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antibiotics-destroy-gut-health(NaturalHealth365)  Recent studies have linked the prescription of antibiotics in childhood to significant harm to gut health.  An article published in PLoS Medicine in June 2023 delivers a critical and alarming review of antibiotics’ impact on the gut microbiome and resistome – the total set of genes in bacteria that enable them to resist antibiotics – in young children.  It puts the spotlight on the serious issue of how antibiotic use disrupts microbial diversity and fuels the development of antimicrobial resistance genes in infants.

The DIABIMMUNE project also provided evidence of the destructive effects of antibiotic use.  It tracked 39 Finnish babies from birth to age 3.  Researchers from the University of Helsinki, Aalto University, Harvard University, the Broad Institute of MIT, and Helsinki University Hospital participated in the study.

Antibiotics reduce diversity and stability of the gut microbiome

In the 2023 study referenced above, the authors conducted an exhaustive search across multiple databases and identified 4,369 articles.  After removing duplicates and screening titles and abstracts, they assessed 92 articles in full.  Ultimately, ten rigorous randomized control trials (RCTs) were included, all focusing on children under two and documenting changes in gut microbiome composition and resistome after antibiotic use.

The findings are stark and troubling.  Antibiotics were found to significantly reduce the diversity of the gut microbiome, simultaneously increasing the abundance of specific antibiotic-resistance genes.  Azithromycin, the most frequently studied antibiotic, alarmingly decreased microbiome diversity and spiked resistance to macrolides within just five days post-treatment.  Known commonly as Z-pak, azithromycin is a frequently used antibiotic, often overprescribed without justified reasons.  The sad truth is that doctors often prescribe Z-pak with little regard for its long-term effects on the gut microbiome and, consequently, the immune system.

In the Finnish study, half of the 39 infants studied were administered from 9 to up to 15 antibiotic treatments before their 3rd birthday.  The remaining infants did not receive antibiotics.  Stool samples were collected from the 39 children monthly during their first three years of life.

The monthly samples revealed that the infants who received antibiotics had far less diverse and stable intestinal microbiota.  The children who did not receive antibiotics had a much more diverse gut microbiome and better overall health.

The key to remember is that a lack of diversity in gut microbial populations can cause infants and children to be more prone to illnesses like inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, obesity, and diabetes.

Too many antibiotics are prescribed for no good reason

As key intestinal bacteria gradually disappear from our gut microbiome over time, largely due to antibiotics, it raises important concerns.  While antibiotics can help to save lives, they’re often prescribed unnecessarily and come with harmful effects.  Surprisingly, antibiotics are sometimes even prescribed for viral infections, which they can’t treat.

Imagine the implications for children who receive antibiotics in their first three years of life.  These youngsters might face lifelong challenges with their gut health and microbial diversity.

What does this mean for them?  Lacking diverse gut bacteria early on could lead to a host of health issues later in life.  They might struggle more with gastrointestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and autoimmune conditions.  Their immune systems could also be weakened, making them more prone to infections.  Furthermore, there’s growing evidence that changes in the gut microbiome might even impact mental health, possibly contributing to conditions like anxiety and depression.

Explore nature’s arsenal of effective alternatives to antibiotics

One promising avenue is the use of probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that can help restore and maintain a healthy gut microbiome.  Probiotics support digestion and contribute to overall immune function, potentially reducing the need for antibiotics by promoting natural defenses against infections.

Herbs and plant extracts also play a significant role.  For example, garlic is renowned for its antimicrobial properties and has been shown to combat a wide range of bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant strains.  Echinacea, known for its immune-boosting effects, and turmeric, prized for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, are other potent options.

Essential oils have gained popularity for their antimicrobial properties.  Tea tree oil, oregano oil, and thyme oil, among others, exhibit strong antibacterial and antiviral effects when used appropriately.

Furthermore, lifestyle factors such as eating an organic diet, regular exercise, and stress management contribute significantly to immune resilience.  A diet rich in organic whole foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, provides essential nutrients and antioxidants that support immune function.  Regular physical activity and adequate sleep also play pivotal roles in maintaining a robust immune system.

The bottom line is that exploring these natural alternatives offers potential benefits for our health and aligns with a broader goal of reducing reliance on antibiotics and preserving their effectiveness for when they are truly needed.  Embracing natural approaches can empower us to take charge of our health in a holistic and sustainable way, promoting a balanced and resilient immune system for the long term.

Sources for this article include:

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