It was Antibiotics Awareness Week from 16th – 22nd November. The World Health Organisation has set this up because of the urgent need to limit their use, so that we still have effective antibiotics when we really need them.
Let’s be clear on one thing: antibiotics save lives every day. They have played their part in reducing infections that, in the past, would have carried off a good many of us before our time, to minor nuisances that last a few days only. But in order to hold on to this wonderful life-saving resource, we must use it sparingly.
The fact is that disease-causing bacteria mutate all the time. They always have, and they always will. If you make it hard for one strain to thrive, others will increase, and sooner or later one will develop that won’t be killed by the antibiotic. We will have no resistance to this new strain, because it takes time for our immune systems to produce antibodies.
And so you get ‘superbugs’. They tend to show up first in hospitals, because that’s where there is a concentrated group of vulnerable people, and a lot of antibiotic use. But of course, once a new resistant strain is born, it will spread. So by using antibiotics, we have speeded up the natural process of mutation, and given ourselves more virulent bacteria to deal with.
We can’t do anything about natural processes. We’ll never eliminate disease, and it would be catastrophic for us if we could. But as individuals, we can do a lot to look after ourselves, and along the way we’ll be helping to conserve the antibiotics we do have. So here are some guidelines:
1. Antibiotics don’t work against viral infections. It’s pointless to take them for a common cold, in the early stages of flu, and for a good many other illnesses.
2. Antibiotics will kill specific strains of bacteria. Some are more general than others, but if you’ve got an unusual bug, the drugs won’t work.
3. If you do take them, finish the whole course. Stopping too soon can prolong the illness.
4. If you take them, take herbs alongside them, to help deal with the effects you don’t want. Antibiotics may kill bacteria, but they don’t help to clear up the inflammation and debris that are part of the disease process. In fact, they interrupt it, leaving you in a vulnerable state, and more likely to ‘catch’ other bugs. Herbs like Calendula, Thyme, Echinacea, Sage and plenty of others will help to re-establish a healthy situation.
5. Antibiotics can upset your gut flora, compromising your ability to break down and absorb the nutrients from what you eat. You may also absorb things that normally would be dealt with in the gut. This can lead to chronic digestive problems, auto-immune reactions and a long-term decline in health. Take herbs like the ones listed above, live yogurt or probiotics, and plenty of vegetables to re-establish good digestive function.
6. Live well! Minimise your vulnerability to illness, and ensure that when you do get ill – and we all need to be ill from time to time – it is short, and as sweet as it can be.