Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
November 10, 2011

The Problems with Antibiotics: Antibiotic Resistance

By Mark Sisson
115 Comments

Allow me to preface this post series with a wholehearted acknowledgment of the beneficial role antibiotics have played, and continue to play, in fighting infections that might otherwise take limbs or lives. Before formal antibiotics, ancient and traditional cultures employed antibacterial herbs, tinctures, and even moldy bread, but regardless of the various methods’ efficacies, they were largely operating in the dark. They knew what worked, but not why it worked. When we use antibiotics today, we (mostly) understand what they are doing on a micro level, and we aren’t (ideally) just relying on hearsay, anecdote, and experimentation. This is a good thing.

So, how do antibiotics work, exactly? There are four primary routes taken by various antibiotics:

By crippling the microbe’s ability to fortify its cellular walls against external forces. Some antibiotics, like penicillin, prevent the target bacterium from manufacturing a substance called peptidoglycan that only bacteria use to construct cellular walls. Because animals don’t use peptidoglycan nor do our cells have “cell walls,” antibiotics don’t hurt our native cellular structures. Human tears actually contain lysozymes that also break apart peptidoglycan bonds in bacterial cell walls, much like antibiotics.

By binding to the protein synthesizing equipment inside the bacteria, gumming it up and interfering with its ability to arrange amino acids into proteins that perform vital roles. Tetracycline, a common antibiotic, binds to cellular ribosomes and interrupts an important step in RNA protein-sequencing. Luckily for us, human ribosomes don’t accumulate enough tetracycline to interrupt the sequence; bacterial ribosomes, however, accumulate enough to stop it altogether.

By preventing the bacteria’s synthesis of folic acid. Since all cells require folic acid and bacteria cannot absorb it from the environment, they must create their own. If something prevents its synthesis, the bacteria die. The sulfonamide class of antibiotics closely resembles para aminobenzoic acid, a critical component of the folic acid synthesis cycle. When bacteria mistake the sulfonamide for para aminobenzoic acid, they attempt to use the former to make folic acid. This doesn’t work and the bacteria eventually dies. Pretty devious, eh?

By targeting and interrupting the DNA replication process specific to bacteria. If a cell – any cell – is prevented from replicating its DNA, it dies. Ciprofloxacin is one antibiotic that targets DNA replication.

So, we’ve developed antibiotics that hit processes specific to bacterial cells while sparing human cells, and antibiotics that perform specific tasks and target specific species of bacteria. It all sounds pretty ironclad, yeah? There are some problems with antibiotics, though. Some very serious ones.

Foremost among them (at least in popular medical literature) is antibiotic resistance.

To understand antibiotic resistance, we must understand where most antibiotics come from. We derive pharmaceutical antibiotics from naturally-occurring bacterial weaponry, “natural” antibiotics manufactured and wielded by fungi, bacteria, and algae with the necessary genes in their ceaseless battle against other fungi, bacteria, and algae. Natural antibiotics and the bacteria the antibiotics are targeting have co-evolved over millions of years together. Just as the gazelle responds to the lion, and the lion to the gazelle, these microbes have also developed genetic counter-measures to enemy antibiotics. Written within their very genes are the tools to both produce and resist enemy antibiotics, and at least as far back as 30,000 years ago (and almost certainly many millions of years more, or for as long as bacteria have been battling each other), bacteria possessed the genes for antibiotic resistance. It’s been a lethal, ceaseless game of tit-for-tat against the backdrop of natural selection, with each side keeping the other in check.

Once we stepped in and began reproducing these antibiotics en masse, however, the delicate balance was tipped. Infectious diseases were hit pretty hard, and everyone hailed the great success of antibiotics. And they were a success, for the most part. The problem was the bacteria they were targeting kept evolving new defenses. And whereas “in the wild,” natural selection would usually produce a counter-counter-measure to the counter-measure and so on and so forth, we didn’t have that luxury. Our antibiotic pills weren’t going to adapt on their own. There was no selective force. We couldn’t just wait around for evolution to occur; we had to chemically alter the antibiotics to overcome the bacterial resistance. We had to laboriously and paintstakingly guide the hand of evolution ourselves. We had to engineer a selective force.

And so you have antibiotics like methicillin, which scientists created by modifying penicillin to get around bacterial resistance to penicillin. It worked, but only until bacteria like methicillin-resistant Stapphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged, and we had to start all over. Numerous other examples of resistant bacteria have surfaced as well:

  • The infamous Clostridium difficile, commonly known as C. diff.
  • Salmonella.
  • E. coli.
  • Certain species of Streptococcus.
  • Certain species of Enterococcus.
  • Certain strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Even those bacteria that do not endogenously possess the genes for antibiotic resistance can become resistant to antibiotics through a process called horizontal gene transfer, or HGT. HGT allows helpless bacteria to acquire genetic material from resistant bacteria that happen to be passing by. Through HGT, bacteria of one species can obtain antibiotic resistance from bacteria of another unrelated species. Acinetobacter baumannii, also known as multi-drug resistant acinebacter, is a common pathogen that obtained most of its resistances through HGT. In its cells, A. baumannii maintains multiple collections of foreign genetic material, kind of like a collector of weaponry from across the world. Oftentimes, the primary source of all this prime genetic material is a species of bacteria that poses no threat to humans but that wants to survive antibiotics just the same – and so develops numerous resistances which other, more dangerous species can pick up for free.

The big problem is that antibiotic resistance is a built-in feature of bacteria. It’s not going away. I mean, that’s what life does – it survives. And when the going gets tougher (when an organism is repeatedly subject to threats to its survival), that organism adapts and evolves and grows stronger. The more you produce the threat, the more you overprescribe antibiotics, the more you indiscriminately feed livestock antibiotics to promote faster growth, the quicker these resistances develop and spread.

Antibiotic resistance is a systemic issue, one that affects the global picture of health. It’s no doubt important, but there’s not a whole lot to do besides be aware of the issue (unless you’re a hotshot microbiologist actually working on new and improved antibiotics). There’s another problem with antibiotic usage, though, a hyper-local one that does impact us on an individual level and that we can hopefully successfully navigate. Next time, I’ll discuss that other unintended, but totally foreseeable, consequence of administering antibiotics in order to kill bacteria: the death of helpful bacteria living in the gut. And later, maybe in the same article if there’s enough time, I’ll go over strategies to combat the problems of antibiotics.

Thanks for reading this first part, and take care until next time. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

TAGS:  Big Pharma

Subscribe to the Newsletter

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

Leave a Reply

115 Comments on "The Problems with Antibiotics: Antibiotic Resistance"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Nithin
Nithin
4 years 10 months ago

We’re often told to complete(not dropout) the prescribed course of anti-biotics, is that related to the above post in anyway ? Does that give the microbes an advantage ?

John
John
4 years 10 months ago

Oh yeah. The reason to complete a prescription is to kill ALL of the problem bacteria. Let’s say this takes 10 days. You take the prescription, and after seven days, you feel great, because you’ve killed of 99.9% of the problem bacteria. So you don’t complete the presciption. But what about the 00.1%? It is the strongest and most anti-biotic resistant. When it reproduces, you now have a more drug resistant strain of bacteria.

FoCo Girl
FoCo Girl
4 years 10 months ago

What John said.

Cassie
4 years 10 months ago

Im currently on antibiotics for a nasty sinus infection. I was pretty resistant to this and tried numerous things to help- neti pot, humidifier, hit cold packs. Did all that for a week and a half. My kids got sick and so did my husband so I haven’t gotten nearly enough rest either, anyway, you got any natural sinus remedies?? I’m dying here

tess
tess
4 years 10 months ago

i used to get horrible sinus infections, but conquered them with about three courses of a combination of echinacea and goldenseal tinctures, plus salt and tea-tree oil in my neti pot. GOOD LUCK! …do you live in a constantly-warm climate? i’m sure that leaving Gulf-coast TX helped in my case….

Lauren
4 years 10 months ago
I got a sinus infection while breastfeeding and my Dr put me on Sinupret forte, from a company called Bionorica, and Soledum from Casella Med. I have no idea if you can get those in the US, but they’re herbal pills (pkg warns they contain glucose, lactose, sacchrose and sorbitol) and did the trick, albeit slower than doxy would’ve. Old Oma trick: try a warm onion compress. Peel and finely chop an onion, heat in a pan without oil, pressing slightly with the back of a spoon to get the juices going, then spoon onto cheesecloth or a linen towel,… Read more »
Cassie
4 years 10 months ago

You mean you put them all in the neti pot??

Margaretrc
Margaretrc
4 years 10 months ago
You can help your body fight off infections (and give antibiotics you do have to take a helping hand) with coconut oil. Once in the body, the Lauric acid in coconut oil is converted to monolaurin, which has antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal properties, if I’m not mistaken. (source: Mary Enig, “Know Your Fats” and “Eat Fat, Lose Fat.”) And coconut oil has a lot of Lauric acid in it–almost as much as mother’s milk. When I’m sick, I fix up a batch of coconut ginger soup and have some often. It’s delicious and a great way to up the coconut… Read more »
Cheryl
Cheryl
4 years 10 months ago

Have you tried nasal irrigation? Google “nasal irrigation” for information an demos. An inexpensive, reusable kit can be purchased at your pharmacy.

As Mark says, it is essential you complete the prescribed course of antibiotics but irrigation may help relieve the symptoms.

Cassie
4 years 10 months ago

Thank you so much for the help. I am trying the tea tree oil and golden seal echanasia my ND had mentioned it to me too but I had my husband pick it up today.
And, about the coconut oil, I eat a LOT of coconut oil 😉
And I might try that onion thing tonight too!

Arty
Arty
4 years 10 months ago
I had chronic sinus infections since young childhood. I remember snot being wiped on my sleeves from wrist to elbow, and when 1 side was full I started on the other. I went through life with this problem, getting a sinus infection 2x each year, being given anti-biotics at least 2x a year through my whole teen age. As an adult I continued to have sinus infections, but was now in America and doctors refused to give me any meds. I carried around a massive infection in my head and ear canal for 6 years before someone referred me to… Read more »
c0defeed
c0defeed
4 years 10 months ago

My allergies and resulting sinus infections used to be crippling at times. Eating primal has significantly reduced them. Two products which have reduced my remaining allergies and sinus infections further are Allergy ReLeaf by Herbs, Etc. and Sinus Blaster.

Cassie
4 years 10 months ago
Arty, Very interesting. I actually stopped drinking milk for about 5 months now because i am nursing my second baby seems to have issues when I have dairy or so I thought. It turns out that it was something else causing her gas but cutting out dairy ended up being good for me! I was told I was allergic as a kid to milk and it always gave me bloody noses or some kind of sinus pain. But over the years I never really thought about it. And it never was THAT bad. Anyway, my husband drinks raw milk and… Read more »
Primal Toad
4 years 10 months ago
I’ll admit myself that some antibitoics and drugs have there place. However, I strongly believe that MOST (at least 50.00001%) have no place in this world. A perfect example from my own life is any and all acne drugs. I was on minocycline and then tetracycline back in the day to try and have clear skin. I hated acne but I hated these drugs more. They gave me headaches. Luckily, for me, I was never put on accutane. I’ve heard dozens of stories of people going on accutane and having phenomenal skin because of it. They get off accutane and… Read more »
Milla
4 years 10 months ago
What ignorance – As far as cholesterol lowering drugs are concerned, you are actually insulting Grok here, not just me. Don’t you know he carried a packet of Crestor around in his loincloth? He popped a pill every time he speared a boar or chanced upon some eggs. 😀 I’m in a silly mood tonight. I may be wrong, but I think accutane literally poisons your oil glands to stop them working. I know someone who got chilitis (sp?) – when your lips crack back *shudder* – because the skin gets so dry. Surely that can’t be a good thing.… Read more »
Dave, RN
Dave, RN
4 years 10 months ago

You’re thinking of Cheilitis. It’s a sign of severe B-12 deficiency.

Lauren
4 years 10 months ago

Which could go hand in hand with decimation of gut flora, due to inability to properly break down and absorb food. When I reach for lip balm, my next stop is the kimchi jar.

Uncephalized
Uncephalized
4 years 10 months ago

Did you read what he said? He was arguing AGAINST the use of these drugs, not for them.

“cholesterol lowering drugs are also 100% unnecessary”

“I strongly believe that MOST [drugs] (at least 50.00001%) have no place in this world.”

Reading comprehension FTW.

Milla
4 years 10 months ago

It was a joke!!! 🙂 I agree that theyre unnecessary.

Tim
Tim
4 years 10 months ago
I agree that most drugs sold in the privileged parts of the developed world are unnecessary. However, billions of people in Africa, South America and Asia live in poverty and are threatened by lethal or crippling infectious diseases that could be cured if they could afford the correct drugs. The tragedy is that drugs companies can make money from drugs that treat depression, diabetes or high cholesterol, but not from drugs to cure malaria, tuberculosis, sleeping sickness or schistosomiasis. Drugs to treat these common diseases of poverty either don’t exist, or are so expensive that people can’t afford them. Drugs… Read more »
Becca
4 years 10 months ago
I also used to be on a bunch of acne medications (most of which were antibiotics, luckily never Accutane). When I went Primal I decided to get off of them because I started to realize how bad all these prescriptions were for me. Unfortunately I can’t say that the Primal diet has given me clear skin… at least not yet. My acne came back as soon as I got off the meds. But it’s a process and I would rather be healthy and live with a little acne instead of unhealthy with perfect skin. I wish dermatologists would start treating… Read more »
LizMhttp://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-problems-with-antibiotics-antibiotic-resistance/#respondc.
LizMhttp://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-problems-with-antibiotics-antibiotic-resistance/#respondc.
4 years 10 months ago
I started breaking out when I was 8 or 9, very young I know. My grandmother was horrified and dragged me to countless appointments with the dermatologist. At first it was various ointments and creams, but I was 8 or 9 and had other things on my mind than smearing my face with stuff twice a day. You know, like being a kid! So eventually, maybe thinking the ointments weren’t working, he wrote a prescription for antibiotics, which I had for YEARS. Luckily for me, again because I was a kid, I couldn’t swallow pills. So for years I cheeked… Read more »
Galina L
Galina L
4 years 10 months ago

I gave my son’s girlfriend some of my Rozacia medicine Metrojel 1% cream. She says it works really well. Also, some people get an acne relieve from the raw egg yolk masks – ancient Indian remedy.

Margaretrc
Margaretrc
4 years 10 months ago

Try putting coconut oil on your skin. Even though it’s an oil, it won’t make you break out. It will, however, help your skin deal with the Acne. See my comment above for the antibiotic properties of coconut oil Now, if I get an acute bacterial infection, I don’t depend just on coconut oil–I take antibiotics when I have to. But I avoid the necessity, most of the time, by eating coconut oil and spreading it on my skin every day.

Milla
4 years 10 months ago

A word of caution with coconut oil as a topical treatment. I know it works for some people, but Lauric Acid is comedogenic! Olive, nigella, evening primrose, almond, etc…these oils won’t break you out for sure,be careful with coconut oil.

sara
sara
4 years 10 months ago

Interesting what we will do as teenagers to get rid of acne without thinking of the long term affects.

My brother was on acutane. He now has crohn’s disease.

Now I’m not saying the acutane necessarily caused the Crohn’s disease directly… but I would bet it didn’t help matters any!!!!

Deannacat
Deannacat
4 years 10 months ago

Sorry to hear about your brother. He has a tough row, that’s for sure.

I discovered year ago that soda pop was what was causing my acne. I dawned on me the day (sorry, this is gross) a zip oozed and it was the same shade of brown as Coke. I stopped right there and have rarely touched any soda since. My face was clear in two weeks.

Primal Toad
4 years 10 months ago

That’s awesome. For real.

M
M
4 years 10 months ago

I had a similar experience; acne 10+ years. It’s never been really bad or anything, but I’ve never been able to get rid of it and I was always told that diet affecting acne was an old wive’s tail. Once I read the Primal Blueprint and gave up lactose though, my acne has dramatically approved. I still get a little bit from time to time, and it mostly seems to correlate to how stressed out I am and if I’ve had any cheese lately.

Tricia
Tricia
4 years 10 months ago

I agree with completely removing the lactose. I had no idea my acne was related to milk until I went completely primal, cut out the dairy, and my skin cleared right up. If I fall of the wagon and eat too much dairy, the acne reappears. It’s frustrating because I’ve been dealing with this for 22 years, tried numerous antibiotics, creams, etc., and it was something as simple as removing the dairy from my diet.

Burn
4 years 10 months ago

Agreed there on the cholesterol meds, I’ve looked into that one pretty extensively, they’re especially unnecessary for women, even harmful!

W.J. Purifoy
W.J. Purifoy
4 years 10 months ago

I went to your blog but could not leave a comment there. I just want you to know your blog is very informative and I forwarded it to some family & friends.

Fabrice4211
Fabrice4211
4 years 10 months ago
Hi Tod, I took roaccutane when I was a teenager as I had bad ache, and was told I’d have dry lips, but the side effects were no biggie, as I wasn’t a woman and wasn’t pregnant… Just reading the actual list of side effects of roaccutane now, I’m amazed I got through it alive! I had severe depression as a teenager which I have to admit coincides with my taking of that medicine, though I did have it before as well, just nowhere as badly. Being a teenager is already difficult enough without having to fight all the problems… Read more »
Milla
4 years 10 months ago
A year ago – before I went primal – I got a pretty bad bout of bronchitis. I was prescribed some antibiotics, but got so sick after the first tablet that I binned them. What I did was, I did hot steam inhalations with pure pine needle oil. Just 3 INHALATIONS AFTER- just 3 – I was clear of the infection. A few weeks ago I got an inflamed gum because of a wisdom tooth. Dentist said I had to take penicillin. I went and bought some garlic capsules, some propolis & an anti-inflammatory antioxidant complex; also, I upped my… Read more »
Raphael
Raphael
4 years 10 months ago

Garlic rules and so does coconut milk. nothing is more delicious than a berry & coconut smoothie.

bbuddha
bbuddha
4 years 10 months ago

Maybe not together though 🙂

Primal Toad
4 years 10 months ago

Coconut milk and garlic together? Why not?! Ok, maybe not… I may try it though…

Berries and coconut milk are awesome for sure!

Abby C.
Abby C.
4 years 10 months ago
I think so too. Our immune system is also designed to allow us to survive. That’s why we develop antibodies. Every time we get sick and then recover our body has developed the antibodies to make sure that we never get that particular strain of that bacteria or virus again. Unfortunately, bacteria are also constantly battling to survive so they are constantly mutating…hence the back and forth of get sick…..get better…get sick as we play tit-for-tat with infectious disease. What I think is the problem is when antibiotics are overprescribed, our natural antibodies are constantly hampered and weak. So we’re… Read more »
MamaLovey
MamaLovey
4 years 10 months ago

Do please share-what does the propolis do?

Milla
4 years 10 months ago

Propolis is anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting (immunomodulatory; immune-stimulating); it also has powerful-anti-microbial and antifungal properties (it is used by bees to prevent putrification of the hive, actually). A solution is also good to use as an antiplaque (plaque buildup often causes oral infections. Though I used tea tree mouthwash, equally great)

gilliebean
4 years 10 months ago

Another example of modern science treating the symptom and not the root cause… I stopped taking antibiotics when I hit 18-years-old.

Martin
4 years 10 months ago

A large problem with medicine is the narrow look at what it does to our physiology. Life in general is holistic. You change one tiny thing and it sets off a fast falling cascade.

ryan
ryan
4 years 10 months ago

There are some scary antibiotics out there too like levaquin. People take a few doses and tear their Achilles tendon getting out of bed. There are some crazy horror stories about that drug. I think it’s terribly irresponsible doctors prescribe this for sinus infections and uti’s.

Milla
4 years 10 months ago

a friend of mine took some newfangled antibiotic (for a minor eye infection…dont ask why you would need antibiotics for that, I’ve no clue) and ended up getting inflamed, swollen knee joints. Nasty stuff.

Jenny
Jenny
4 years 10 months ago

Maybe because infections in your face can easily and quickly move to your brain and kill you?

Rebekah
4 years 10 months ago

Yeah… I had facial cellulitis once (whole left side of my face was swollen, I looked like a puffer fish) and got put on Levaquin. The nausea from the drug was bad, but in that case, I preferred not to risk the inflammation spreading to my brain. It seemed like a called-for use of antibiotics. 🙂

Grokitmus Primal
4 years 10 months ago

It’s always going to be hard to stay ahead of the bugs. Being much simpler organisms the adapt rapidly.

Jeff
4 years 10 months ago

I used to take antibiotics on at least five occasions a year to rid myself of chronic sinus infections. And then, one day, it happened. My infections dissipated. It was a month or two later I learned the correlation. The elimination of processed foods, grains, etc. were the root – duh! So when I drink a few beers too many, I know what to expect now. But even better, I now know antibiotics aren’t the solution for this body. Primal is.

Dave, RN
4 years 10 months ago

C. diff is very difficult to get rid of and can become chronic. I’ve had patients who’e lives were total misery because of it. But there is a new treatment that has a 91% success rate. No patient developed a subsequent recurrent infection!

What is this miracle cure?

Fecal transplants.

Yup. Really.

Dave, RN
Dave, RN
4 years 10 months ago

I wonder if I can make extra money selling my poop for transplants. Paleo poop has to be the best!

FoCo Girl
FoCo Girl
4 years 10 months ago

Comment of week! possibly comment of the year!

sara
sara
4 years 10 months ago

HA!

Sabrina
Sabrina
4 years 10 months ago

You have a costomer! After years of being on tetracycline for acne, my gut flora have been completely decimated. I now have Celiac and Ulcerative Colitis and have seriously considered a poop transplant. My husband isn’t the ideal donor since he has mild digestive issues of his own. And my mom lives too far away. It’s hard to find a healthy poop donor, but I concur: Primal poop is the best!

Arty
Arty
4 years 10 months ago

Make your own primal poop, it’s so easy, a Caveman can do it.

Gydle
4 years 10 months ago

I wrote about this on my blog recently. It’s for real.
http://www.gydle.ch/blog/2011/10/whats-the-poop/

nicole
nicole
4 years 10 months ago

Im a nurse too and got c diff after being on antibiotics for the first time in like 15 years… took them for 3 days then started getting sick… c diff was awful… stopped antibiotics (was for first uti )I ended up in the hospital for dehydration and was so sick. 2 years later I still don’t think my gut is back to normal. I will be on deaths door before I ever take them again

Nannsi
Nannsi
4 years 10 months ago

We were doing fecal transplants years ago. The doctor who prescribed them was ordering them for his critical inpatients. Everyone thought he was certifiably crazy–and he WAS, actually–but his fecal transplant patients always improved. His foil covered football helmet with the springy antennae to treat drug addictions? (Truth. Swear!) That didn’t work as well…

carlos
carlos
4 years 10 months ago

What happened in antibiotic research is that they got lazy. For more or less ten years all research on them stopped because they thought that they had done “enough.”

So when all these resistant strains started happening. They rushed to push out stronger antibiotics that did little and had horrible side effects.
Lazy science makes bad medicine

Allison
Allison
4 years 10 months ago

For the parents out there, I recently learned that 80-97% of uncomplicated ear infections clear on their own in 4-7 days. Despite this it seems that antibiotics are the routine treatment. It makes no sense! When my son had his first ear infection I told our doctor no thanks and my son was better in 6 days! It was a relief to know that I didn’t kill off his healthy bacteria. I look forward to the second installment of this series!

sara
sara
4 years 10 months ago

Agreed… most children’s ear infections go away on their own anyway. So why give antibiotics??? I don’t get it at all.

Tim
Tim
4 years 10 months ago

Because if the doctor didn’t give antibiotics and it happened to be one of the minority of cases that don’t go away by themselves, risking complications such as deafness, they’d quite rightly get their ass sued off.

Tricia
Tricia
4 years 10 months ago

My son’s pediatrician caught an ear infection at a routine wellness exam. He wrote a script for an antibiotic but told us to just watch him for a few days because it would probably clear up on its own. If he seemed uncomfortable after a day or two, go ahead and fill the prescription but otherwise it would probably clear on its own. I know that they have literature now at the office saying to take a wait and see approach on the ear infections so I think this is changing.

Ingvildr
Ingvildr
4 years 10 months ago
As a lifelong asthmatic I’ve had more rounds of antibiotics than I can count. When my older kids were small it was probably four to six times a year. I just kept getting bronchitis, sinus infections, laryngitis, ear infections(as an adult) and the one time the doc decided I was getting too many antibiotics and didn’t give me any, I had pneumonia in five days. I shudder to think of what my native flora look like. What finally stopped the cycle was getting rid of the husband that was keeping me in constant stress(he couldn’t hold down a job) and… Read more »
Mike
Mike
4 years 10 months ago

I was antibiotics for 18 months after a nasty infection. I’m sure it screwed up my gut for several years.

Jay Ogg
4 years 10 months ago
I was on doxycycline for six months coupled with Retin-A Micro for severe acne when I was a teen. I participated in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life that year. I knew that there were warnings all over the labels stating to avoid direct sun exposure while on this medication, and so I decided to slather on some SPF 70. One hour in the sun and I was in such agonizing pain, I swore I was in a pot of boiling water. This sensation did not cease for 12 hours, despite my efforts and many ice cold baths. I… Read more »
Monica
Monica
4 years 10 months ago
I also took antibiotics for years for my acne. My dermatologist (even when I told her about studies saying otherwise) denied that diet or lifestyle had anything to do with my acne. I actually found the Primal Blueprint while looking for natural ways to beat my acne, because the antibiotics were making me so sick and tired. It took over 6 months of say, 90% adherence, but I’m basically 99% clear today without medication. I digest my food better, I don’t fight yeast constantly, and I have more energy. I’m just thankful I had the sense to stay away from… Read more »
Jeff
Jeff
4 years 10 months ago

I think one problem is that many very unhealthy people- smokers, overweight, terrible diet, etc.- still have perfect skin. So doctors extrapolate and insist that these factors can’t affect (or cause) acne for EVERYONE. But for acne prone types diet almost certainly plays a huge role.

Ryan
Ryan
4 years 10 months ago

LOL at the comments talking about antibiotics atrophying your immune system. Reading such ridiculous comments made my morning.

Source: MD

david
david
4 years 10 months ago

Instead of ridiculing why not give a reasonably scientific explanation why this is incorrect or at least a link to further information. Readers will not simply accept your position because you have written ‘source: MD’ at the end. The idea that antibiotics weaken your natural defences does make intuitive sense after all.

peggy
peggy
4 years 10 months ago

ahhh, I am reminded of George Carlin & his bit about our “pussification” and germophobia, etc. 🙂

Stacy Fenner
Stacy Fenner
4 years 10 months ago
I understand and definitely agree that antibiotics to cure common ailments that will go away on their own or with the help of some natural supplements like fish oil are unnecessary and not advisable because of the havoc they can wreak on the immune system. However, when I was 13 I had Subacute Bacterial Endocarditis (read – Staph infection in my heart). After 3 weeks of 104.9 fever, I was hospitalized and had a catheter put in to pump antibiotics directly into my heart. Obviously I lived, although I definitely have noticed that my immune system seems weaker than most… Read more »
W.J. Purifoy
W.J. Purifoy
4 years 10 months ago

“The best offense is a good defense”. Find a Naturopathic Doctor and start building your immune system before it is needed. Look in the yellow pages, or go online to get a list of ND’s in your area. And eat primal.

Alana
Alana
4 years 10 months ago

I’ve been off/on doxycyline for literally years because of my skin (sometimes for as long as 9-10 months at a time). I just got switched to a “low dose” antibiotic (still doxy, but 40mg) that supposedly is NOT antimicrobial in nature, but IS anti-inflammatory.

The ideal is to be completely off and heal my gut, but in the meantime I’m hoping that a lower-dose will at least allow me to take probiotics and start healing some of the damage.

Jeff
Jeff
4 years 10 months ago

Long term low dose accutane is much safer than long term antibiotics in my opinion. Google it- you might find the complete elimination of your acne if possible with only 10mg accutane a few times per week. All of the proven (and wildly unproven, like depression) side effects attributed to accutane virtually disappear for many low-dose users.
I’d rather mess with my oil glands than my natural immune response. Albert Kligman (famous dermatologist) posited that sebum plays virtually no role at all given our relatively hairless modern bodies (not a good argument for primal types I admit…)

James
James
4 years 10 months ago
I spent 4 days in the hospital just over a year ago w/ an abscess infected with MRSA. It was on my upper thigh/groin and I had a rash extending almost to my ankle. I was on a cocktail of at least 4 different antibiotics – 2 oral and 2 IV. Nasty stuff. I was supposed to go on a backpacking trip less than 2 weeks after I got out of the hospital (and right as I was finishing up the take-home antibiotics.) Surgeon said I was fine, Infectious Diseases doc said no way. Glad I listened to ID doc.… Read more »
Dave, RN
Dave, RN
4 years 10 months ago
I hit my elbow and got MRSA cellulitis. I was getting Rocephin shots but they wen’t doing any good. My wife went to the health food store and told the guy what was up and he recommended silver gel 23ppm. He said another guy he knew was in the hospital with a cellulitis infection and put some silver on it and was cured in 3 days. So I tried it. In 12 hours the redness and puffiness was 50% smaller. In 3 days it was gone. I was very grateful. I know that those type of infections can have very… Read more »
Hopeless Dreamer
Hopeless Dreamer
4 years 10 months ago

another side to the antibiotics issues is Flu shots…never had one, never will. our pediatrician,thankfully, agrees that they are mostly unneccessary. He said our immune systems are already taxed by all the shots! but my doctor recently asked me at least 3 times if I want a flu shot…I kept saying no, and I have been (thankfully!) healthy and mostly illness free for years…and he knows this and STILL tried to push a flu shot! beware, folks, even if you otherwise like your doctor!

Tim
Tim
4 years 10 months ago

Antibiotics kill bacteria. Flu is a virus. There is no connection between flu vaccines and antibiotics.

Arty
Arty
4 years 10 months ago

Also, you can’t build anti-bodies against the flu. Your giving yourself the mild flu everytime you get a shot and your body is just fighting off an invader.

I just think flu shots are another way of getting ppl injected with something that the government wants to put into us…

Tim
Tim
4 years 10 months ago

No, that isn’t true. You do make antibodies to the influenza virus and these do make you immune to that particular strain of the flu. Vaccines and natural infections are identical in producing strong immunity.

You can get the flu more than once because there are many different strains of the virus. Immunity to one strain doesn’t transfer to the others.

This is also why new strains of the flu are constantly evolving, because we are immune to the old ones and they can’t infect people any more.

Keoni Galt
Keoni Galt
4 years 10 months ago

Penicillin saved my Grandfather’s leg after he got shot in WWII fighting hand to hand combat in the Phillipines.

Antibiotics certainly have there place in medicine…but, like most meds that do have a legitimate purpose, they are definitely over-prescribed.

Don’t forget, another factor in the developing of resistant strains is the use of antibiotics in CAFO operations.

Feedlots have to use mega-doses of antibiotics to keep the animals from getting sick and dying before slaughter.

There is some speculation that the more deadly e.coli and salmonella strains came from CAFO’s.

Dave, RN
Dave, RN
4 years 10 months ago

Guess where the majority of antibiotics go in the US?

CAFO operations. Yup, to the tune of millions of lbs a year. Much more than are used for humans.

http://www.rodale.com/antibiotics

And they wonder why we have antibiotic resistant bacteria. Just another reason to go organic grassfed.

Mark Cruden
Mark Cruden
4 years 10 months ago

Incredibly fascinating and extremely informative. Thanks, Mark!

Diane
Diane
4 years 10 months ago
I had Rheumatic Fever as a child (properly diagnosed and all) — that was in the early 60s. I took “prophylactic” penn. for years thereafter. I quit for a couple of decades, then was told I needed to take a massive dose of Pen. before I got my teeth cleaned. That piece of CW lasted about 10 years. My poor gut bacteria! Those that survived are total Penicillin Resistant machines. I’m sure they pass along that resistance to nearly every other bug they meet. So — the good part. I don’t have a heart murmur (anymore). I didn’t die from… Read more »
Greg
Greg
4 years 10 months ago

I hear people say I am antibiotic resistant, they don’t work on me. I don’t think they are right. The bacteria becomes antibiotic resistant not the person.

Antibiotics are way over used bet when you need them you need them. I had a bout a pneumonia. I did not know I had pneumonia. It severely and permanently compromised my lungs. So when you need them, don’t be stupid, use them. Just don’t use them every time you get a sniffle, a cold or the flu.

Susan Alexander
4 years 10 months ago

Nice post, as usual. Haven’t had antibiotics prescribed for me since I went Primal. Makes sense.

On an unrelated note, check out this new app:
https://eatery.massivehealth.com/

Good for those who prefer narrative over data, I suppose – wonder how it figures out what is and isn’t “healthy” for the “Healthy” meter 🙂

Johnny Palmer
4 years 10 months ago

Hi there,

I found that things like bread, little exercise, and alcohol made my skin really bad, I tried so many things to make it better, but it was when I started eating properly, and exercising regularly that I saw a dramatic change in my skin.

Most drugs are just a way for companies to make money, and they are not needed most of the time. Vitamin C tablets for immunity, and for infection, lavender oil or teatree. (As an aside, lavender oil is GREAT for burns!)

Thanks,

Johnny

Heather
Heather
4 years 10 months ago

Hi everyone,
Antibiotic use is an issue here in Australia as well. However I have found over the years that the GP’s I have seen are more reluctant to prescribe them, I haven’t used them for years. I had surgery in 2008 (abdominal, and huge), and though I had some pretty heavy duty pain killers there was no antibiotics post op, at all. I put it down to some really good care and a private room. It’s a lottery though. Cheers

sarah
sarah
4 years 10 months ago
For people asking for natural remedies: Pelargonium Sidoides, sold as “Breathe Free” by Source Naturals, has been shown to be effective for respiratory infections. Andrographis has been shown to reduce the severity of cold symptoms. Source for both claims: consumerlab.com (a great resource for determining the efficacy of natural remedies.) I use andrographis every time I feel something “coming on.” I am an asthmatic who has been on pounds of antibiotics since I was a tiny kid, and used to catch everything that came near me. Primal eating and sensible exercise seem to help, and the andrographis seems to nip… Read more »
Nossar
Nossar
4 years 10 months ago

well thanks for that post, I take between 10 and 15 different antibiotic treatments myself each year and now have to take antifungus medication… my gut flora is weak and therefore the bad bacteria have all the power they need to multiply. I believe all these treatments to have been completely unnecessary most of the time, the only purpose being to take little risks and feed me back to the workplace after 3 days of rest only… I used to be sick once a year, now I’m not sick about once a year… disgusting

Danaa
Danaa
4 years 10 months ago

What about all the antibacterial hand wash, kitchen wipes, baby wipes etc? Totally unnecessary (if they are actually effective and not just a gimmick) and probably harmful for those who use them. You can never develop your own natural resistance to bugs if you try and kill them at every turn.

Michael @ somebodylied.com
4 years 10 months ago

I prefer prevention over cure and if you do get ill, natural remedies over antibiotics. But ye antibiotics are extremely helpful but when people don’t finish their prescription, it can lead to antibiotic resistance.

Gydle
4 years 10 months ago

This is one of my all-time favorite topics. Horizontal gene transfer in bacteria was the subject of a recent research paper:
http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/hgt-bacteria-1031.html
This wired blog covered research on how taking antibiotics can permanently destroy your good gut bacteria. Scary.
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/08/killing-beneficial-bacteria/

I’m currently kind of obsessed by the human gut biome, and wrote about it in a post on research about the gut biome and mental health here: http://www.gydlepublishing.com/blog/2011/09/about-that-gut-feeling/
and about fecal transplants as a possible solution for C. difficile and IBD here:
http://www.gydlepublishing.com/blog/2011/10/whats-the-poop/

Sorry for all the links. Mark, bravo for tacking a fantastic and super-important topic!! I can’t wait to read installment # 2.

Lexov
Lexov
4 years 10 months ago
Dear Mark, Thank you for your interesting article. I’m looking forward to your article on the other side of the debate: antibiotic addiction/dependence. I’m not a doctor, but I believe that overprescription of antibiotics may at some point prevent the organism to fight the bacteria through its OWN defense mechanisms. From 2008 to 2010, I suffered from repetitive sore throats and had to take antibiotics about 10-15 times/year. In 2010 I had a tonsillectomy and since then (touch wood), not a single sore throat and no single pill of penicillin. However, I believe I could have avoided this operation if… Read more »
nicole
nicole
4 years 10 months ago

Expecting parents: don’t forget that the best way to keep kids off antibiotics when they’re little and grown is to breastfeed for 2 years (world health organization ). It wont prevent every case of needing antibiotics… but most. My 6 year old has never had antibiotic…. my 4 year old did once. Most of my friends who nurse that long have similarexperience… guys… encourage your wives/girlfriends to do this…. doesn’t get anymore primal than that!

Captain Obvious
Captain Obvious
4 years 10 months ago

I’ve recently read much about hydrogen peroxide and oxygen therapies.
They are supposed to cure colds and infections way better than anything a doctor can prescribe.

Google it.

Caleigh
Caleigh
4 years 10 months ago
I have been on and off antibiotics for years for different reasons. Most of the time my mom, who is a nurse, wanted to ‘help’ and that is how she saw she could. No parent wants to see their kid in pain. And in the 80’s and 90’s living a ‘primal’ like was out of the question. Anyways when I moved away from home whenever I got sick I would break out leftover antibiotics from a previous bout of something (I had a little bit of everything, from seeing the DR so much) too help speed recovery. And it used… Read more »
trackback
4 years 10 months ago

[…] Link – The Problems With Antibiotics – Antibiotic Resistance – Mark’s Daily […]

Elisa
Elisa
4 years 10 months ago

Okay so I have a question… If antibiotics fatten up livestock, do they make humans fat too?

Are they the same kind of antibiotics? How do antibiotics work to fatten livestock or make them grow rapidly?

Roget
Roget
4 years 10 months ago

The antibiotic is used to keep the sick cow alive as they are filling it with grain. The grain makes it gain weight. Cows are rumins and are not adapted to eating grain but rather to eat grass and the like. The diet and close quarters stress the animal In several ways. Many would die before reaching the goal weight if not for the antibiotics.

Mr Gift Professor
4 years 10 months ago

I feel like too many doctors hand out Z-packs like they are candy. If you use Z-packs too often you open yourself up to much more threatening strands of viruses due to a weaker immune system that relied on Z-packs to bail them out.

trackback

[…] The Problems with Antibiotics: Antibiotic Resistance via Mark's Daily Apple by Mark Sisson on 11/10/11 […]

Happycyclegirl
Happycyclegirl
4 years 10 months ago

I watched a documentary on phages as a much older (in terms of use) alternative to antibiotics. The doc was filmed in the country of Georgia where they had phages from over 100 years ago. They “grow” them and then use them whenever there are outbreaks in their hospitals. Apparently, the Georgian population uses very few antibiotics.

The doc was called, “Phages the Virus that Cures”. It was fascinating. (Apparently Time magazine did an article on phages a while back.)

Geoff
Geoff
4 years 10 months ago

For those looking at strengthen their immune systems using (semi-)natural approaches going beyond just food and foodstuffs, the information and referenced supplements in this Life Extension Foundation article may be of use:

http://www.lef.org/protocols/immune_connective_joint/immune_system_01.htm

My father recently contacted c.diff. while in the hospital. It came back after he went off the antibiotics. After he gets off this time I will be heavily dosing him with pre- and probiotics, and trying out some of the suggestions.

may
4 years 10 months ago
trackback

[…] page. Thanks for visiting!Are there any viable alternatives to antibiotics? I just spent the last few posts talking about all the bad things that stem from taking too many antibiotics, and you’re […]

trackback

[…] given out is exerting a selection pressure on billions of microbes that will ultimately lead to greater resistance, but when it comes down to it, you don’t want to be sick in the here and […]

trackback

[…] given out is exerting a selection pressure on billions of microbes that will ultimately lead to greater resistance, but when it comes down to it, you don’t want to be sick in the here and […]

trackback

[…] I mentioned in a post from last year, microbes are living, evolving things; when antibiotics are employed to get rid of them, they’ll […]

trackback

[…] prevent the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. I’ve explained how antibiotic resistance impacts our health […]

trackback

[…] the problem with antibiotics recipe baked butternut squash […]

wpDiscuz