When I was a child, penicillin was discovered. Soon it became commonplace. The words “wonder drug” were used almost interchangeably with antibiotic.
I took my fair share of that pink liquid, mostly for earaches, sometimes for strep throat. It truly seemed wondrous.
I also lived through the DDT era, where DDT was a commonplace insecticide applied all around me, to the fields and crops near my home. Until Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, and enough people woke up to realize that wonder-chemicals sometimes have a dark side.
Sometimes it’s said, “It ain’t what we don’t know that’s the problem… it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” So here’s what I’ve been learning about what I thought I knew for sure.
A week ago, I was attacked by a cat which sent me to the ER where I was prescribed a double course of antibiotics to prevent infection. I was grateful for the medication and took it as directed. But here’s what I know now that I didn’t know a few weeks ago. Because of my recent studies (about food and the microbiome), I was intensely aware of what I was doing to my GOOD bacteria, while I was knocking out the (potential) bad ones.
Talk about collateral damage – that euphemism for “ooops… sorry ‘bout that…”
First – according to a number of sources (verified by Pulitzer Prize winning Politifact) – 80% of the antibiotics created for humans and food animals are fed to food animals. Most of these are the same drugs. Some of that 80% may be used for treating illness, but the majority of it is used – get this – to fatten them up. To cause them to gain weight.
Whoa! There’s a lot of stuff wrong there… it’s known that resistant super-bugs are developing in response to overuse and misuse of antibiotics. That’s one issue. Another is that we are eating meat from animals that were using antibiotics. A third one is – did you notice? – the animals are fed “preventive doses” of the same medicines we are taking for illnesses – “to fatten them up.”
Second – that antibiotic we take – to treat or prevent infection or illness – kills all our good guys too. Yep. It kills off the wonderful bacteria that are digesting our food for us, breaking it down so when it goes into our intestine it’s ready for the next steps, separating the nutrients from the fiber and waste, and creating a healthy nourishment for the body we want. But wait. We just killed many of these good guys…ooops?! Now what?
When it’s necessary to take antibiotics – and I felt it was for me with this cat attack – we deal with it. So all through the course of the antibiotic I kept eating my probiotics and prebiotics both. By the end of the 7 days, however, I’d gained 3 pounds, when my weight been very stable before. And my vision had deteriorated quickly as well.
Evidence? Or all in my head? I’m not sure, but I’m eating everything I know to rebuild my microbiome.
Here’s what Dr. Raphael Kellman (MD) says: “I know it’s challenging to wrap your mind around the idea that there is a whole other ecology within your body, an ecology that is not human but nevertheless an essential part of you as well as a crucial aspect of your health.
“And yet, it’s true. The health of your microbiome determines the quality of YOUR health, and without your microbiome you couldn’t survive. In fact, without your microbiome you would no longer be you, just as you would no longer be you without your brain or your heart.”
(From The Microbiome Diet, by Dr. Raphael Kellman MD)
So what to do? Double – no, quadruple – your vegetable intake. Eliminate all processed/packaged/pre-made foods (make your own). Get rid of sugars (except in fruit) and, for the most part, get rid of grains. (Study it – then conduct your own lab experiments with your body – you’ll see why.) Then add a lot of fermented vegetables and other foods.
Oh, and avoid antibiotics as much as possible. Educate yourself.
It’s worth it to work with, instead of against, this amazing organ/organism that is part of who you are. The microbiome.