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Antibiotics: Are They Really Good for You?

Imagine: you come into the doctor’s office with a very sore throat. After a few minutes, your doctor diagnoses you with strep throat and prescribes you some antibiotics.

Imagine: you come into the doctor’s office with a very sore throat. After a few minutes, your doctor diagnoses you with strep throat and prescribes you some antibiotics. The same antibiotics that she’s already prescribed you for your past illnesses. It seems that your doctor constantly keeps prescribing you antibiotics, even when it may be unnecessary. But what can you say? You continue taking your antibiotics, but after a few weeks, you find that you’re constantly ill and with a fever. You decide to go to another doctor, who tells you that your previous doctor did you a serious disservice prescribing all those antibiotics.

How can this be? Aren’t antibiotics supposed to be good for you? To a certain extent, they are. Antibiotics are effective against bacterial infections like strep throat, some parasites, and some fungal infections [1]. However, when you start to overuse antibiotics, this can be detrimental to your microbiome. How? Well, it all starts with knowing that your gut contains about 100 trillion microorganisms that play important roles in digestion, immunity, metabolism, and mental health [2]. For instance, the bacteria Helicobacter pylori plays a crucial role in preventing obesity and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).  Antibiotics cannot differentiate between the good bacteria and the pathogenic bacteria [2]. So, when you keep taking antibiotics, you end up destroying the bacteria that are beneficial for you in your microbiome. Even worse, you strengthen the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria as you kill off all the least-resistant bacteria first and provide the selective pressure for the most-resistant bacteria to survive and reproduce.

Don’t fret, though: there are ways to repopulate your gut with good bacteria. Taking high-quality probiotics is one way to restore your gut’s population of beneficial bacteria [2]. A fecal microbiota transplantation is another way to repopulate your gut with bacteria with the feces of a healthy donor.

All in all, antibiotics can be good for you, but to a certain extent. Just make sure you don’t end up taking too much and kill off the good bacteria in your microbiome.

 

  1. “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly – Antibiotics.” Carrington, 20 Dec. 2016, carrington.edu/blog/medical/good-bad-ugly-antibiotics/.
  2. Myers, Amy. “How Antibiotics Wreak Havoc on Your Gut.” Amy Myers MD, 27 July 2018, http://www.amymyersmd.com/2017/11/antibiotics-wreak-havoc-gut/.

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