Any little sniffle was treated with antibiotics. Doctors prescribed them not only for acute bacterial infections, but for viral infections 'just in case'. Antibiotics are routinely given to livestock, fish, and pets. You yourself can probably remember taking many courses of antibiotics over your lifetime. Maybe you even had a course or two this past winter.
So what's the problem with freely prescribing antibiotics? By overusing antibiotics we have crippled their effectiveness. And with antibiotics declining in effectiveness, we are at risk of returning to a time before antibiotics.
Antibiotic Resistance And The Superbug
'Antibiotic resistance' refers to the phenomenon where bacteria are able to prevent antibiotics from being effective against them. Antibiotics treat infection by altering a pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria's structure or function to make it more susceptible to our own immune system. As part of their natural evolution, many pathogenic bacteria have evolved ways of preventing their own destruction by antibiotics. And with the original antibiotic now ineffective against them, these antibiotic-resistant 'superbugs' are free to multiply and spread. Superbugs increase the risk of longer and more severe illnesses, and increase the likelihood of death due to infections. This is especially true in immunocompromised people, such as babies and the elderly, as well as those with cancer, HIV/AIDS, or people who are hospitalised for serious illness. Simply, antibiotic resistance is rapidly returning us to a time when we could not effectively treat serious bacterial infections. Frightening, isn't it?
What Can We Do?
As we speak, awareness around antibiotic resistance is growing. Antibiotic Awareness week (16-22 November) will help educate both doctors and the public around these issues. The government is also working on new regulations around the prescribing of antibiotics. These regulations will ensure that antibiotics are only prescribed in cases when they are truly needed.
In the meantime, we as individuals can seek alternatives to antibiotics for our own illnesses. Fortunately, most common infections can be effectively treated with natural therapies.
6 Ways to Beat Bugs Without Antibiotics
1. Get healthy
The best way to beat bugs is to make your body resistant to them. A healthy, fit body houses a healthy, fit immune system ready to fight off infection. Getting healthy isn't rocket science: eat wholefoods, especially lean protein, healthy fats, and plenty of vegetables and fruits, and exercise your body daily. Learn to keep stress low and include as much time for relaxation as possible. A Naturopath can help guide and support you to make these healthy changes.
2. Be sensible with your hygiene
Our germophobic obsession with antibacterial hand washes, soaps and household cleaning products comes with its own set of problems. Instead, wash your hands regularly with ordinary soap, especially before preparing food or eating. Keeping your hands clean, but not disinfected, will go a long way towards reducing your risk of infection. If you're prone to urinary tract infections, drink plenty of water so you are routinely flushing bacteria out of your urinary tract.
3. Take herbs
If you feel you might be getting sick, call us straight away. Our immune-boosting herbs, like Echinacea and Andrographis, work by making the immune system more effective against an infection. They are therefore a perfect choice for preventing an infection from taking hold. If you do end up getting sick, the above herbs, plus natural antimicrobials, such as Garlic, Thyme and Golden seal can also be helpful in treating infection. If your symptoms are making you miserable, there are plenty of herbs that can reduce them, from Licorice for a sore throat to Elderflower for congestion. If you get sick, call us for an appointment ASAP. If you're too sick to get out of bed, we even have phone consultations available, and we can Express Post your remedy!
4. Take your supplements
Immune-boosting nutrients can be useful before, during and after an infection. Old favourites like vitamin C and zinc are always helpful, but did you know that other natural therapies like vitamins A and E, and even fish oils, have immune-boosting properties?
5. Rest and recuperate
If you do get sick, one of the best things you can do is take time off work. Your immune system requires rest to work effectively, and staying away from other people will prevent the spread of infection. As for you busy mums, do your best to have a rest. Invite a friend or family member over to look after the kids while you take a nap.
6. Boost your immunity
If you experience recurrent infections, see a Naturopath for an immune-boosting plan tailored to your specific situation. We have helped countless people reduce the severity and frequency of their infections. You don't have to suffer, and you certainly don't have to take course after course of antibiotics!
And there you have it, 6 ways you can help fight antibiotic resistance. Get involved this Antibiotic Awareness week and share what you've learned with your friends!
Gauri Yardi, Naturopath Melbourne, specialises in stress and anxiety, digestive and skin disorders, and loves to help people recover from illness and improve their resistance to infection. To get Gauri's help boosting your immune function, call 1300 21 44 25.
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