Antibiotics have long been seen as a panacea – but is it possible to have too much of of a good thing? Some commentators certainly think so.
“It is ironic that this humble fungus, hailed as a benefactor of mankind may by its very success prove to be a deciding factor in the decline of the present civilization”, says
Dr. John I Pitt, The Genus Penicillin, 1979. (1)
The Soil Association is also worried, saying: “MRSA, the hospital super bug, arose through overuse of penicillin-type drugs in human medicine…it continues to mutate. This is a doomsday scenario and could cause massive loss of life.” (2)
“Our overuse of medical antibiotics has reduced the human gut to a burned-out minefield, destroying the good guys along with the bad guys,” points out Dr. Jordan Rubin in The Maker’s Diet. (3)
Is this another case of certain groups and individuals over-dramatising and scaremongering? Or should we be doing something to mitigate the effects of an excess of antibiotics?
There is no doubt that antibiotics currently save many lives. So the purpose of this article is not to demonise them but to examine their role (including their overuse in many cases), and to outline some essential strategies to reduce their potentially damaging effects on the body. We will examine the following areas below:
o The internal ecosystem: a delicate balance
o A brief history of antibiotics
o What are antibiotics used for?
o Are they being abused?
o Symptoms of an imbalance
o Suggestions from Dr. David Holland
(co-author – The Fungus Link)
The internal ecosystem: a delicate balance
This article is based on the following essential principle:
“There is a delicate balance or symbiosis that exists of micro organisms within the body that when altered can lead to disease.”
A healthy human adult has about three to four pounds of beneficial bacteria and fungi living within her/his intestines. These microbes compete for nutrients from the food you consume. The beneficial bacteria (like probiotics) keep the bad guys (like yeast) in check and cause them to produce nutrients like B vitamins. (1)
The normal ratio is around 85% good bacteria and 15% bad micro organisms. Now unfortunately most people show the reverse ratio. One reason for this shift is through the use of antibiotics. (4)
A brief history of antibiotics
Antibiotics are also known as anti-bacterials, anti-microbials and mycotoxins.
In 1928 Alexander Fleming accidentally stumbled across penicillin when he noticed that a mould (fungi) had contaminated agar plate upon which he had tried to harvest bacteria. Bacteria near the mould died. This led scientists down the path of antibiotics in treating infectious diseases.
But fungi were actually the first organisms found to cause infectious diseases in humans. Schoenlein (1790 – 1864) linked fungi to ringworm (fungal infection) and began the fight against fungi until Fleming led the new drive against bacteria and later viruses. (1)
What are antibiotics used for?
Antibiotics only work against infections caused by bacteria. (5)
Therefore they do not work against viruses or fungal infections. According to the American College of Physicians, 70% of all antibiotics dispensed are for upper respiratory infection (URI) including bronchitis, sinusitis and pharyngitis.
However according to the Paediatric Infectious Disease Journal, antibiotics are often ineffective in these cases. (6)
A growing number of medical professionals assert that most URI’s are not caused by bacteria but fungi. (1,7)
In 1999, the prestigious Mayo Clinic announced that researchers had discovered the real cause of chronic sinusitis – 95 % of patients suffered from a fungal, not bacterial, infection. (2)
Two out of three infants receive antibiotics before they turn one year old according to the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. (7)
Now you may do your best to avoid taking antibiotics, but if you are consuming commercially farmed animals you are most certainly getting a regular dose. U.S. pharmaceutical firms produce more than 35 million pounds of antibiotics each year, and animals receive the vast majority, which is a good reason for paying more for grass-fed, free-range and organic meats. (8)
This information is not new, it just takes time to get it out there. The U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and American Academy of Paediatrics published guidelines for the appropriate use of antibiotics and this resulted in a 41% decrease in prescriptions to children under 4, according to one study. But the problem (many in the medical profession believe) is the lack of attention to diet and insufficient measures to reduce the effect of antibiotics. (7)
Symptoms of an imbalance
Antibiotics can lead to dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance in the digestive system) which causes havoc to the body’s immune system.
Dr. Jordan S. Rubin, author of the Makers Diet, personally battled severe health problems due to an imbalance leading to Crohn’s disease, whereby victims experience progressive symptoms of abdominal pain, diarrhoea, extreme weight loss and perhaps premature death. According to Dr. Rubin the prevention and treatment of dysbiosis present the most challenging problems doctors face today.
Dysbiosis may lead to allergies, irrital bowel syndrome, breast and colon cancer, increased suspectibility to infection, food cravings, impaired, mental clarity, hypoglycaemia and numerous other illnesses, according to Dr Rubin.
He adds that most doctors rarely connect the cause of illness to the microbe balance.
Furthermore most people are too embarrassed to talk about their constant diarrhea, indigestion, gas, constipation, abdominal bloating and pains. (3)
So if the overuse of antibiotics leads to intestinal imbalances and fungal infections, why don’t doctors know this?
According to The Fungal Link it’s because fungal infections were rare 50 years ago because pharmaceutical drugs were rare.
“We’re using antibiotics that are so powerful they save lives, but they also destroy normal flora, particularly in our intestinal tract, says Dr. Michael G. Rinaldi.” This allows pathogenic germs to colonise and eventually become infectious. (1)
Suggestions from Dr. Holland
Dr. David Holland believes going back for another round of serious or stronger antibiotics potentially leads to serious repercussions.
He admits most doctors are generally unaware that antibiotics wipe out normal, protective intestinal bacteria with as little as a single dose, as antibiotics are broad-spectrum (they nuke them all including the good guys – Lactobacillus acidophilus and other probiotics – that protect us against yeast, salmonella, cholera and harmful E. Coli species overgrowing).
He also suggests taking a look at your current lifestyle. Smoking, excessive alcohol intake, lack of exercise, regular sugar, and high stress levels are all good ways to get an infection.
Remedial action – if you take an antibiotic
Dr. Holland recommends the following strategies that you can discuss with your GP.
Take an anti-fungal together with the antibiotic.
Replace the good bacteria by supplementing with a probiotic (not the sugar drinks currently marketed, instead ask at your local health food store or chemist).
However, Dr. Holland states that once many antibiotics are consumed, probiotics alone may not be enough. So a change in diet and prescription, or natural anti-fungals are required.
Take an antioxidant supplement which includes vitamin A, C, E, zinc or selenium as they are antifungal. (1)
Finally if you believe you may currently have symptoms of a fungal infection, I recommend you read ‘The Fungal Link’ (see references) and look up the http://www.yeastconnection.com which also has a free test and recommendations online.
Your 3d Coach
(1) The Fungus Link, Volume 1 and Volume 2, Doug A. Kaufmann,
2000 and 2002
(2) Soil Association, Pamphlet: Antibiotics – will they still work next
time you need them
(3) The Maker’s Diet, Dr. Jordan Rubin, 2005
(4) Candida Albicans: The quiet epidemic, Stanley Weinberger, 2000
(5) http://www.familydoctor.org, antibiotics
(6) Annals of Internal Medicine, American College of
Phyiscians, American Society of Internal Medicine, March 20, 2001
(7) Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, December 2002,
(8) Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, December, 2002,