Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
23 Nov

The Problems with Antibiotics: Possible Alternatives and Damage Control

kefirgrainsAre 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 likely wondering if there’s anything you can do when an infection comes around. Although I wouldn’t suggest ignoring your doctor’s antibiotic prescriptions for some herb you found on some site online, there are potential alternatives. Not every alternative I list is going to work for you. To be honest, we have yet to confirm many viable alternatives that pack the punch of modern antibiotics. And in many cases, the wallop of conventional pharmaceuticals is exactly what the doctor ordered (in, um, every way). Sure, it could be said that every dose of antibiotics 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 now.

So, once again, are there any viable alternatives to antibiotics, and if we have to take one, what can we do to mitigate the potential fallout?

First, the alternatives.

Fecal Transplants

Feces is mostly made up of living bacteria. That’s why poop-covered greens are often at the heart of these E. coli outbreaks you hear about – the bacteria lives on. Bad for those who like unwashed commercial spinach, but good for fecal transplants. Yes, fecal bacteriotherapy – the transplantation of fecal matter from a healthy human with healthy gut flora into an unhealthy human with unhealthy gut flora via enema or nasogastric tubing (through the nose directly to the gut) – is a promising new procedure. It’s particularly effective against recurring C. diff infections, showing “complete resolution” in 92% of 317 patients across 27 studies. C. diff is notoriously antibiotic-resistant (many C. diff infections happen because of antibiotics, in fact); only three antibiotics are currently even remotely effective at combating the nasty infection, but the fecal transplants displace the C. diff and replace the missing good stuff.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, fecal transplants are a bit of a hard sell. It clearly works, but since it smells of the dreaded “alternative medicine” and there is as yet no randomized controlled trial testing it, few physicians are even aware of or prepared to handle the procedure. Furthermore, most insurance won’t cover it. That they often blend the “fecal probiotics” with milk to form a “lactofecal slurry” (my choice of words) probably doesn’t help, either. Everyone loves a chocolate milkshake, but c’mon.

All hope is not lost. At-home fecal transplantation using a basic drug store enema kit has been shown to work just as well. (Of course it’s imperative that you work with your doctor if this is a route you think you might want to take.) And although most fecal transplant research centers on C. diff, it’s been shown to resolve antibiotic-related changes in short chain fatty acid production and increased diarrhea. I imagine we’ll see a lot more in coming years. Overall, I think fecal transplantation is the most promising antibiotic alternative.

“Natural” Antibacterials

To deal with pathogenic or competing microbes without pharmaceutical intervention, organisms have developed natural antibiotics. So it should come as no surprise that certain naturally-occurring substances have antibacterial properties. Modern and ancient medicine have identified many of these and isolated them, purified them, extracted them, and as I said in the first post, modern antibiotics like penicillin originally stem from naturally-occurring antibiotics that bacteria have been using against each other for millions of years. The problem with recommending natural antibiotics as a replacement is that there exists very little evidence in the literature supporting their efficacy. Plenty of antibacterial compounds exist, often in herbs and spices with long histories of medicinal uses, but that doesn’t mean that taking a pill of an extract of that herb or spice will kill whatever’s infected you. It might, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it did – heck, go through all my Smart Spice posts and you’ll see that just about every one has some sort of antimicrobial function – but I can’t recommend it because I simply don’t know.

One argument (to which I’m somewhat partial) in favor of natural, whole food/herb antibiotics is that they have a long track record of dealing with real-world infections and microbial attacks. That even though modern pharmaceuticals have isolated the compounds with the most powerful effects, whole foods contain a wider range of compounds working in concert and “attacking” the problem from different angles. Anyway, here’s the list of some (but not all) foods/herbs with natural antibacterial action, along with some relevant links. I tried to limit the list to only those substances showing efficacy in vivo:

Garlic

Using doses between 1-3 mg/ml, garlic extract was effective against antibiotic-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In another study, garlic extract reduced the viability of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in mice, and lowered inflammation associated with the infection. It’s worth noting, however, that a 2003 review (submitted before the other two studies were run) found garlic and other herbs/foods to be mostly ineffective as an in vivo antibiotic. It also concluded that while solid evidence for using herbal replacements is scarce, there’s enough in vitro evidence to demand further investigation.

Honey

As a topical antibacterial agent, honey has been used for thousands of years, a role which plenty of clinical studies have confirmed (PDF). Some studies have even found that topical honey works better than systemic/oral antibiotics in treating infected wounds. So, next time you’re infected with E. coli, do I recommend taking a tablespoon of raw honey? No, not quite. But you can certainly benefit from applying a dollop to a cut or open wound instead of reaching for the antibiotic ointment. That last link has guidance on how to apply honey to wounds.

Forsythia Suspensa

Forsythia suspensa is one of the 50 “traditional herbs” used in Chinese medicine, and a few studies indicate that it has antibiotic capabilities. In the only in vivo one I could find, oral extracts taken from the dried forsythia fruit proved effective in killing antibiotic-resistant Streptococcus suis, both alone and when combined with amoxicillin in a 4:1 forsythia:amoxicillin ratio. Of course, seeing as how most Chinese medicine sources I could find refer to forsythia suspensa as a broad spectrum antibiotic compound, it’s possible that it has systemic effects as well.

Coconut Oil

Coconut fat contains lots of lauric acid, a medium chain triglyceride. In the body, lauric acid turns into monolaurin, a monoglyceride with antibacterial properties also found in human breastmilk. Makes sense, huh? A baby’s immune system is pretty undeveloped, especially early on, and some delicious milky antibiotics from Mom are just the ticket. Hmm, I wonder if it works in adults…

Oregano

Speaking of monolaurin, an in vivo study showed that a combination of monolaurin and oil of oregano was effective against staph infections in mice (60% survival rate), even slightly more so than vancomycin (50% survival rate), a type of antibiotic. An in vitro study showed that oregano oil makes conventional antibiotics more effective against E. coli, perhaps lowering the effective dose and subsequent side effects.

Cranberry Juice

It has proven effective at preventing urinary tract infections, but whether or not it can be an effective treatment remains to be shown.

Just be wary. Natural does not mean safe, nor does it mean “less powerful.” Think of red yeast rice, which is an over-the-counter statin analog (statin drugs came from it, actually), with all the potentially negative effects of Lipitor and Crestor. Go ahead and eat your garlic, add oregano to soups and stews, use coconut oil like normal – basically, treat food like food – but be careful when treating them like medicines (not that garlic is going to hurt you, of course). I’ve given you a list of foods with antibiotic properties, so now do your research or find someone who’s done theirs to decide if these are right for you. Don’t mess around with serious infections; instead, try these alternatives out when it’s a minor one, at least at first.

Vitamin D

A thought provoking article by the Vitamin D Council hints at the antibiotic potential of vitamin D megadoses. We already know that vitamin D is crucial for immune support, and numerous testimonials (in this forum and others) of folks taking large doses of vitamin D at the onset of a cold or infection and beating it abound, but the D Council article discusses a little-known role for vitamin D: the expression of the gene involved in producing endogenous antimicrobial peptides, or our body’s own antibiotics.

In the short term, megadoses of around 30-40,000 IUs are perfectly safe. Just don’t maintain that dosage for longer than a week.

Waiting It Out

For relatively minor conditions, like a middle ear infection, some doctors are recommending that patients simply “watch and wait.” A 2005 study put this to the test. Two groups of kids, each with ear infections. One group gets amoxicillin, the other goes home empty handed. The antibiotic group’s symptoms resolve quicker than the “watch and wait” group, but not by much. Both groups’ infections resolved. Plus, as time goes on, more members of the antibiotic group get sick again, this time with antibiotic-resistant bugs. After 30 days, both groups had essentially identical cure rates. Both were equally effective, but the “watch and wait” group got to keep their gut flora intact.

If it’s not life-threatening and it’s not impeding your ability to enjoy life, wait a little while. See how your body sorts it out. Check with your health provider first, though.

Maintaining Good Gut Health

Sometimes, antibiotics are necessary. Sometimes, alternatives simply won’t suffice and you (or someone you care about) just gotta take the stuff. When that happens (and even when it hasn’t happened yet), maintaining good gut health is paramount.

You should already be eating a variety of fermented foods, but the need for dietary probiotics grows more pressing when antibiotics enter the picture. And yes, take probiotics and eat fermented food during your course of antibiotics. Sure, some of them won’t make it out, but some will, and most studies show that concurrent probiotic/antibiotic schedules are helpful in avoiding antibiotics-related complications:

So, eat yogurt, kefir (real kefir, make your own, make coconut kefir (combo of monolaurin and probiotics?), search for “kefir grains” on Craigslist), sauerkraut, kimchi, and real pickles when you take antibiotics. Focus on variety. Continue to eat them after the antibiotics are done. Don’t stop.

Don’t always wash your produce (if it’s from a farm you trust, like your backyard) and eat some of it raw, because there’s a lot of interesting bacteria out there, and most of it – contrary to popular belief – will not kill you. This is a good way to introduce gut flora to your system.

Eat foods that contain soluble prebiotic fiber. You gotta feed the flora, keep it happy.

Go outside. Roll in the mud. Play in the dirt. Pet your pets. Don’t stress over washing your hands so much.

Speaking of stress, try to work on that. Chronic stress, whether it’s physical, emotional, financial, professional, or traffic-related, can negatively impact your gut flora.

Don’t despair.

I know I spent this post series talking about the negative ramifications of antibiotics on one’s gut flora. I know there have been some scary articles claiming that your gut flora may never return to normalcy. But really? It’s not always so bad. If you’ve taken antibiotics and are asymptomatic – that is, your digestion is normal, you’re not falling ill out of the blue – you probably have nothing to worry about. Continue to eat and live well.

But what if you’re one of those who took heaps of antibiotics? What if you’ve tried the probiotics, the prebiotics, you spend time outdoors, you get dirty from time to time, but you can’t shake the poor gut health? Talk to your doctor about the possibility of fecal transplants. Other than that, we could all wait around for small interfering RNA-wielding nanomachines, crafted by DARPA, and cold plasma jets to supplant antibiotics entirely, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Now I want to hear from you. What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? Would you consider a fecal transplant?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Thanks for your timely post, Mark! For the most part, I find that oil of oregano will kill most infections if you catch them at the very beginning. I couldn’t stand the taste, so I put the drops in a gelatine capsule, along with some crushed dried parsley. The parsley helps with the return visits from the oregano. Five drops in a capsule, and two capsules every few hours staves off most viruses. Cheers.

    Sheena wrote on November 23rd, 2011
  2. A good chiropractor all the way! I’m a vegetarian and prior to three years ago I used to get a cold of some sort every season change (4x a year), which I put down to being vegetarian (everyone tells you you’re unhealthy). Then I started seeing a corrective chiropractor after discovering via xray I have some messed up scoliosis which was inhibiting my central nervous system to operate effectively. I see my chiro twice a week now and not a lie I havn’t been sick in three years now. My xrays have improved DRAMATICALLY! Twice I’ve started to develop symptoms of a cold but in 2 days when I would normally be getting the worst of it, it’s gone away (I always take echinacea when I get cold symptoms aswell to kick start the combat process). Sorry for the essay, but due to my own experience I am now the biggest advocate of chiropractic, find yourself a GOOD one and experience the difference yourself! :)

    Ash wrote on November 23rd, 2011
    • I would have to agree with you about chiropractors. I was a huge skeptic for the longest time…but finally gave them a try when I couldn’t take my sore back anymore. I felt instantly 100% better and pain free.

      Now mind you I am currently trying to correct my posture and focus on preventing back injury when I exercise and work. I do dream of the day when i don’t need to seek the assistance of a chiropractor, but for now I have to say they have been of help…

      Ed wrote on November 23rd, 2011
      • Chiropractic has been a part of my life from age 15. My understanding is that having an optimal functioning nervous system is foundational and therefore essential to optimal health potential. I know my body is self healing and self regulating. I recognise that with stress (physical, chemical or emotional) comes compromise and therefore being in a state of vulnerability.
        I see the key to optimal health is managing your stress load. Know how to offset the effects of stress with good nutrition, exercise, positive mental attitude (everything you promote on this site) and of course regular chiropractic care. Preventing the use of antibiotics in the first place is far easier then dealing with the effects.

        Jo Hayes wrote on November 23rd, 2011
        • Couldn’t of said it better myself! Great to hear when people are letting their body heal without antibiotics :)

          Ash wrote on November 23rd, 2011
    • Twice a week?! For three years?! My word, but that chiro must be making a LOT of money off you!!

      How is that continual “treatment” not just treating the symptoms? What is your prognosis, what program does s/he have to weaning you OFF continual “treatments”?

      I love chiro — I use it whenever I *need* — but twice a week for years?!?! Hmmmm… Maybe you need a second opinion from a chiro who does NOT want to keep you comin’ back!

      Elenor wrote on November 24th, 2011
  3. Antibiotics can be life savers if used correctly. Should never be the the first course of action unless the person is not healthy and does not have an immune system capable of healing itself. All of the alternatives in the comments are worthy of mention. I am way more afraid of antibiotics and resultant side effects than I am of any of the alternatives (this does not include fecal use which is NOT necessary with so many other safe alternatives). Silver (not homemade) and tea tree oil are my first line of defense.

    Betsy T wrote on November 23rd, 2011
  4. Animal lover here and my vet regularly prescribes honey for wounds – including a really deep bite wound on one of my horse’s back legs. It healed quicker than I expected, from a neighbor dog given her history of injuries, and with almost no scarring. He also advises alum powder to stop bleeding quickly.

    Cattle people have always known that when you have a sick cow it’s a good idea to steal some cud from another cow and give it to the sick one. Foals also regularly eat manure and horse people are told not to try to prevent them because it gets their guts started and established.

    I have always been interested in alternative medicine, but sometimes you do need the antibiotics. I have given penicillin shots to animals when needed and then given them probiotics and don’t regret it at all. Information is power, so arm yourself, try to avoid needing antibiotics – then use them gratefully if you must. Be glad you don’t have to die or lose a limb from formerly incurable problems.

    ladycopper5 wrote on November 23rd, 2011
  5. My doctor prescribed antibiotics for H. Pylori. She admitted that my symptoms might or might not be caused by H. Pylori. She thought it was a good first step. She also said that most likely my whole family has this, but since they have no symptoms, they don’t need to be treated. I thought that if I took the antibiotics I would just get reinfected from my family members later and I didn’t like the idea of two different antibiotics for 2 weeks. So I did some reading and found opposing opinions about H. Pylori. One researcher even claims that our gut needs H. Pylori. So I treated my symptoms with acupuncture and Chinese herbs as IBS. One month later I am 90% better.

    Renata wrote on November 23rd, 2011
  6. I may be in the minority here but I got pseudomembranous colitis as a result of taking an antibiotic. Talk about sick!!! I thought I was going to croak. I would have taken a fecal transplant then, no question!
    I imagine if you polled people with antibiotic associated illnesses such as C. Diff or pseudomembranous colitis, you would probably get a higher percentage.

    Helen K wrote on November 23rd, 2011
  7. Love your “chocolate milkshake” comment, Mark. I do enjoy your sense of humour! I’m a big fan of honey, garlic, and essential oils, especially Ti Tree & Eucalyptus. We’re probably not going to see double-blind/placebo/etc tests anytime soon: hard to patent natural products, so where’s the impetus to spend research dollars? And fecal transplants just need a good spin doctor to find a new name!

    Isabella wrote on November 23rd, 2011
  8. I am just looking up the properties of diluted hydrogen peroxide as a possible replacement for antibiotics…I have read somewhere there are staff infections that respond to treatment with H2O2 where antibiotics have failed

    BT wrote on November 23rd, 2011
  9. Just believe!

    dasbutch wrote on November 23rd, 2011
    • My hat is off to you!

      Yes, so many health opinions are more of “belief” than “objectivity.” Just like religion.

      Science doesn’t have all of the answers, but it has many. There is a reason that so many people died of infections before antibiotics. Jeeeeeez…….

      Antibiotics are one tool among many. I don’t select a screwdriver when I need a hammer. As an example, my rosacea. No OTC or Metrogel would fix it. But low dose Doxycycline acts as an anti-inflammatory, and it works great.

      More science, less religion. Dietary or spiritual. Mark walks a good middle path in this article.

      Paul Verizzo wrote on November 24th, 2011
  10. To all the “members of the medical profession”, we do not need any scaremongering, thank you. Humans and their ancestors have lived for several millions of years without doctors and antibiotics. I have cured many different types of infections, including ear infection and UTI, with the wonderful natural substances, described here by Mark and the readers. I have done it in my dogs as well, so nobody can say it was placebo effect. On top of that, I have also cured an autoimmune disease in my dog with natural cures because I would never ever let my dog be messed up by corticosteroids.

    And the list of natural remedies is much longer.

    Apart from what the readers said about the horrible unvisible side effects of antibiotics, studies have found that women who have taken lots of antibiotics when young had around one third more risk for breast cancer later in life. I bet future research shows breast cancer is not the only type of cancer to watch out for, if you choose this sledgehammer approach that mainstream medicine is so proud of.

    Regarding clinical trials everybody knows that the Evidence Based Medicine and clinical trials only had to be invented because synthetic substances are so laughably inferior that of course, none of them had been in use for 5.000 or more years (and none of them will be) that they had to at least give them something … Just look at the simple plants like aloe (which contains over 400 active substances and scientists are still discovering new ones), or neem, curcuma etc, or natural substances like vitamins C and D (high doses!), colostrum, propolis, beta glucans, astragalus, zinc, selenium, medicinal mushrooms, D-mannose (for UTI), essential oils – apart from oregano and others mentioned above (lemon, lavender, thyme, sage oil, geranium etc.), green tea, various spices, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, magnesium, sodium bicarbonate etc. Even simple things like camomile tea cure infections. The list is endless. Everyone should – apart from coconut oil – take fish oil with EPA and DHA, this is the foundation of a healthy cell, and healthy cell will be resistant and bacteria will have no chance. Plus eat like Mark recommends and you will normally not even get an infection.

    Xenia wrote on November 23rd, 2011
    • On that note, in referring to mentions of “how many people died of infection before antibiotics etc…” isolated antibiotics (starting with penicillin) were invented in an environment where proper healing through herbs had been marginalized by the stigma of their association with witchcraft not too long before that. For a good while, prayer was supposed to be your only antibiotic, if you didn’t want to be burned at the stake. Fast forward to the invention of antibiotics- herbs were the witchcraft of the past, and faith in “nature-conquering”-minded science was replacing faith in prayer. With the rise to dominance of the culture it took place in, of course traditional healing methods have been marginalized; synthetics fit our nature-dominance-complex and are far easier to capitalize on. It has nothing to do with them being more effective (excepting particular circumstances where modern pharmacologicals, like modern surgery, truly do work miracles).

      Erik wrote on November 24th, 2011
      • Oh, puh-leez. The herbs were not marginalized due to affiliation with witchcraft, they were marginalized due to lack of effectiveness in most cases. I’m not saying that herbal remedies are never effective, but that they are a lot less so than the herbal religionists would like to believe.

        I’m sure the military would have been huge users of herbs, but no, it took the invention of sulfa drugs to significantly decrease mortality of the infected.

        As some have pointed out, there have been problems with antibiotics. Overuse, in our food chain, individual reactions. But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, the propensity of antibiotics to perform well vs. herbs isn’t even close.

        I”m guessing a lot of the successes of herbal and home remedies fall into the camp of things curing themselves.

        Paul Verizzo wrote on November 24th, 2011
        • Any direct experience on the matter?

          Erik wrote on November 24th, 2011
  11. Ooooooh yuck! You just totally grossed me out… I’ll have to come back later and read the rest of the post!

    Sharyn wrote on November 23rd, 2011
  12. Anyone have any advice for folks who have HSV2 aside from L-lysine?

    Elvira wrote on November 23rd, 2011
  13. I was harmed by the quinolone antibiotic Levaquin. It was prescribed in combination with prednisone, which I now know is contraindicated. Body systems affected: central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, skin, GI, circulatory, muscles, ligaments, tendons. I took the antibiotic 16 months ago, and I am still suffering. Mark, I think it’s great that you’re discussing antibiotics. People, please stay away from quinolone antibiotics, unless there is absolutely no other option, or you’ve inhaled anthrax. Personally, I wouldn’t take them even in those instances. Levaquin ruined my life.

    Kelli wrote on November 23rd, 2011
  14. When my oldest son was 2 years old he had many recurring ear infections–one more and he would have had tubes. A friend told me about garlic oil and I began using it in his ears–he never had one again. I have had 3 more kids and when they were little and sick with a bad cold I went ahead and put a few drops of garlic oil in their ears and they have not had issues with ear infections. I know this does not prove anything but sometimes you just know when something works.

    julie wrote on November 23rd, 2011
  15. my dad is a pretty good doctor, he can tell what’s wrong with you as you are knocking at his office’s door. We used to get very annoyed as kids because our friends got sick, went to the doctors and got pills and we were told to suck it up and wait it out. When we have the flu or a throat infection, we drink ginger, lime, honey and cinnamon tea and it works like a charm. The only time he brought any pills to our house was when we were reeeally sick, I am very gratefull for that today.

    Marcela Tizo wrote on November 23rd, 2011
  16. I would do your own research on this but there is supposedly a chemical in Gentian Root, Goldenseal and Oregon Grape Root that acts as an antibiotic. Be REALLY careful with it because it can also be an abortive. Do NOT take any of these herbs if you are pregnant. (Actually don’t take any herbs if you are pregnant unless you absolutely know what they are and how safe they are.) It’s either the same chemical or slightly different with the same properties, I don’t remember. It takes a lot of it to work, and it’s good to eat lots of probiotics when you take it, but I’ve found it very helpful for mild infections, or used topically. All three of them taste horrible. It’s a very old indigenous remedy, apparently.

    That’s another thing that has been lost. It wasn’t just the diet that was different for us for most of our evolutionary history, our medicine was different too. Herbs were an extremely important part of most cultures going back as far as anyone knows.

    Willow wrote on November 23rd, 2011
  17. One of my friend eats 5-6 onions without cooking them and the next day she feels great and all the symptoms of flu or cold gone away..

    rachel wrote on November 24th, 2011
    • That is a rough way to go but I have done it too with similar results. Very effective- however it was so awful that dead was looking pretty good a one point during the night! HA HA

      Lila wrote on November 25th, 2011
  18. I just wanted to mention that my 85 year old mother had a deadly form of c.diff due to taking too many antibiotics over the previous year and doing nothing to rebuild her flora. She caught it either in the hospital or the rehab place and was bedridden for five weeks, then another four for rehab. It was so awful that no one could assure us that she would live. The finally got it under control enough for her to go home, but then less than two months later she was back in the hospital. After more rounds of antibiotics she finally agreed to try the fecal transplant [which was originally discovered at the University of MN - there was an article on him about a year ago in The New York Times]. It worked and saved her life. It was not at all unpleasant and was done in an outpatient procedure. She had to pay for it, but since she was part of a research study, it was only something like $2000. She has other health issues today, six months later, but she continues to be c.diff free. The fecal transplant SAVED HER LIFE. Please do not discount this option – and look up the Dr. at the University of MN who is the world’s best authority on this currently.

    Kemper wrote on November 24th, 2011
  19. I always joke about getting hot-and-sour soup when I has (or feel the beginning of) a respiratory illness. I’m half-convinced the “hot” part scares the bug away!

    I’ve lived in the South now for 15 years, and yet I still have to be extremely careful if I touch anything “natural” outdoors. After three instances of pretty-bad “felons” – infection IN the finger under the fingernail – requiring both antibiotics and antifungals (or, at least, that’s what the doc had me take), I’ve had to adjust my lifestyle. *IF* I garden (or even pull a couple of weeds!) at all, I wear two pairs of surgical gloves and when I come in, I wash my fingers and under my nails very carefully with soap, then apply rubbing alcohol to the nails, nail beds, and under the nails, then ‘rehydrate’ the skin/nails with jojoba oil or coconut oil – and then watch carefully to try to catch any infections that might start. {sigh}

    Apparently the “bugs” down here do NOT agree with me!

    Elenor wrote on November 24th, 2011
  20. Coconut oil is a great. I was introduced to it by a Steve Acuff. It is the only oil I cook and eat with now. I don’t know if it can be an alternative for antibiotics, but it has do wonders for my health.

    Nick wrote on November 24th, 2011
  21. Oh, and I’ve thought semi-wistfully but with interest about fecal transplantation and the studies showing that transplanting “fat rat” feces into thin rats makes the thin rats get fat… Dunno about the opposite — but I’ll tell yah — THAT is a pill I’d take: skinny person gut bacteria (in {shudder} very thick-skinned capsules) if they could show it worked! (Maybe they can GET the good-gut bacteria by naso-gastric tube instead of after it exits?!) {wince}

    Elenor wrote on November 24th, 2011
  22. Mark,

    I’ve been reading Art Ayers for some time and doing some of my own research. Here are some things I would love to see you address.

    1) We know that industrial antibiotics disrupt gut flora. What about natural antibiotics? What impact does oil of oregano, or coconut oil, or any other plant-derived compound, have on gut flora?

    2) Gut flora balance is critical, in that it affects the differentiation of T-cells incubated in the lymphatic system. Antibiotics can change the balance. Wired reprinted an excellent image from the very important “enterotypes” paper (published in Nature): http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/04/gut-bacteria-types/ The image shows just 28 important genera of gut bacteria. It strikes me that supplementing diet with over-the-counter probiotics is a very clumsy approach. Which of the 28 are diminished by your particular antibiotic? (Assuming that these 28 genera are the full list — my guess is they are not.) Supplementing with the wrong genera could be at best neutral, at worst you could accidentally destabilize the microbiome further or in a different way. The holy grail would be to know in advance which bacteria to supplement, but at least a possible near term approach could be a systematic method of progressing through specific bacteria like a decision tree to try and get to a good end result.

    3) Minor points: I’m not sure I would classify cranberries as an antibiotic, they don’t kill microbes, they prevent them from sticking to the urethra, as I think you mention elsewhere. Along those lines, d-mannose seems to have the same effect for UTIs. You could write a book on specific remedies to common health problems using non-industrial medicines. (For cuts & scrapes, since my skateboarding days when my friends and I had many of them, and we could see whose got infected and whose didn’t, we learned that hydrogen peroxide was the best treatment.) Do you have a recommended go-to source for non-antibiotic treatments for specific health issues?

    Ed wrote on November 24th, 2011
  23. I have used a micronized (very finely ground) oregano extract repeatedly for antibiotic resistant problems, with great success. Especially when a client has used several different prescriptions, a large dose (5 tablets) three times a day the first day, then 2 three times for four days and then off for 2 days has proved very effective. When an antibiotic is prescribed for a long period, it kills all but the very strongest bacteria, which then surge back, and are resistant to the last drug. By dropping the dosage of oregano for two days out of five, the bacteria have a chance to come back and die when the regime begins once more. Course of treatment is 5 weeks.

    I have also used this regime with some success with parasites. (and if you eat pork, sushi, have cats, travel outside the US, or have kids, you have a good chance of having parasites.)

    If the site of infection is in any way available for topical treatment, organic coconut oil can be amazing. It is anti-viral, anti-biotic, anti fungal and anti parasitic. And delicious…

    Elaine DiRico wrote on November 24th, 2011
  24. Most, if not all of these comments so far are missing the most important point of this article. Partly because it was mentioned near the end, and it is not nearly as cool sounding as fecal bacteriotherapy. However, you can not underestimate the role of vitamin D in human physiology, specific to this article – immunity. My recommendations are:
    – Read the statement (link provided in Mark’s article) by the Vitamin D Council about the effects of vitamin D on the innate immune system.
    – Google search “stoss therapy.”
    – Google search Vitamin D and innate immunity, or more specifically the role of vitamin d receptor and up regulation of cathelicidin and defensins
    – Google search antimicrobial peptides and their role in human physiology
    – Continue eating a primal diet
    – See a healthcare provider (MD, PA-C, NP, naturopath, etc.) if you have questions regarding your health.
    – STOP discussing fecal bacteriotherapy/fecal transplantations.
    – @ Mark Sisson specifically: Disclaimer or not, you should be ashamed of even mentioning the possibility of at home fecal transplantation. Vitamin D should have been the thrust of this article, not fecal transplantation.

    Respectfully,
    Jacob Lynn

    Jacob Lynn wrote on November 24th, 2011
  25. I have to disagree with Laura Blacksin about taking antibiotics with all infections. It makes me so angry when medical professionals think they know everything about health. When you go to a doctor nowadays, they don’t ask you what your diet is like, how much water you drink, or whether you exercise, but what your symptoms are. It is is irresponsible advice to suggest that infections ALWAYS need antibiotics because antibiotics actually disturb the natural bacterial balance in the gut. The antibiotics not only destroy bad bacteria but also good bacteria, so the next time you are exposed to something, you can’t fight it off. I had ear infections every 3 weeks as a child and adult until I was 30 years old and so had a round of antibiotics every time. I had so much of it that now amoxicillin doesn’t even work on me. No doctor ever bothered to do a real invesigation into why I had ear infections and didn’t see the pattern. As an adult, I finally did see the pattern that I would have asthma attacks when I consumed milk, so I quit drinking milk. In the 10 years since then, I have had maybe 3 sinus/ear infections. I didn’t take antiobiotics with any of them. I took MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), juice with high vitamin c but no sugar, chicken soup, and about 5 liters of water a day. Within a day or 2, the infection passes. I also cured myself of a raging bladder infection with MSM and no sugar added cranberry juice diluted with lots of water. The infection was gone within 3 days. So, you see Laura Blacksin, infections don’t usually need antibiotics. So, for myself, if I have broken arm, need stitches, etc., I go to an MD. If I need health care, I go to an alternative healthcare practitioner.

    Barbara Pope wrote on November 24th, 2011
  26. I am deeply disturbed that anyone would say “STOP discussing fecal transplants.” A fecal transplant literally saved my mother’s life, so anyone that dismisses this incredibly simple, safe procedure [when overseen by a medical professional that has experience with it] is denying others of an extremely good solution for very dangerous bacterial infections specifically in the colon. Thank you.

    Kemper wrote on November 25th, 2011
    • I was not dismissive. The science on fecal transplants is solid. My point is that fecal transplants are outside the scope of this article and outside the scope of Mark Sisson and should not be discussed further related to this topic.

      Fecal transplants have their place. However, to discuss it outside the context of resistant C. diff infections (which your mother had) is absurd. In our practice (Cardiothoracic surgery) we see a small number of C. diff infections. These infections are treated with IV Flagyl or PO Vancomycin with nearly 100% clearing by repeat lab test.

      If a person has a resistant C. diff infection a fecal transplant may be necessary. At that point no one would be looking on MDA for advice because they would be cared for by a competent MD.

      Jacob Lynn wrote on November 25th, 2011
  27. I think that the first line of defense should be increasing our immune system effectiveness, not going to the exogenous substances route. Certainly mega-dosing on vitamin D is one step on this strategy, although I would focus first on titrating on vitamin C.

    Is vitamin D mega-dosing a full spectrum antibiotic and antiviral?: after reading Dr. Cannell on Blood Irradiation and on Common Cold, I get the impression that it is not going to be effective against staphilococcus aureus, rhinoviruses and influenza B at least.

    With respect to the effectiveness of vitamin C, you have to realize that Linus Pauling got it almost right and that Dr. Cathcart completed the needed strategy (start reading Paul Jaminet’s take on the subject): you have to try to saturate your blood of ascorbic acid just like animals with functioning livers increase its production (some even 100-fold) under any physiologic stress.

    Aren’t you convinced of the efficacy of vitamin C? Then just read their detractors, as for example Quackwatch, where they disregard the results of meager doses of less than 8g of oral vitamin C on common colds: they conclude that it has a negligible effect, I conclude they were using a ridiculous dose (I have titrated thrice on vitamin C for, presumably, two flues and one ear infection, arriving to 20-30g per day). It is noteworthy to point out that it is perfectly possible to do double blind randomized trials proving vitamin C effectiveness: it only requires intravenous administration (it is not possible to titrate and keep it blind) of doses bigger than 20g.

    For those interested, I would recommend reading Ascorbate: The Science of Vitamin C of Steve Hickey y Hilary Roberts.

    Best regards.

    Andrés wrote on November 25th, 2011
  28. For urinary tract infection, I wouldn’t rely on cranberry juice alone. Further, I would go for the cran pills instead of juice.

    My naturopath recommended Vitamin C (1000 mg four times a day), D-Mannose powder (5 g twice a day in a little water) (reduces adherence of bacteria to urinary mucosa), and Berberis capsules (one with each meal) (antimicrobial specific to urinary tract).

    It worked!

    XtineBeanie @ CleanLiving / DirtyWorld wrote on November 25th, 2011
  29. bought some milk and water Kefir grains. I’ll start making milk Kefir and coconut Kefir as soon as i get them!

    PaleoDentist wrote on November 25th, 2011
  30. Uva Ursi for urinary tract infections. As a chronic sufferer of UTIs, I once had an MD tell me I’d be on low-dose antibiotics for life. I went looking elsewhere and found Uva Ursi. It absolutely works.

    D-mannose as a preventive measure for UTIs also works wonders. D-mannose is the sugar in cranberry juice that prevents bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.

    Naomi wrote on November 25th, 2011
  31. I am no fan of antibiotics. However, with a little bit of caution- I will take one if it is truly indicated. If I think that I can manage something myself- well I would rather do that instead of knocking all of the normal bacteria out of my gut for months. I am particularly suspicious of anything that might simply be viral. It has been my experience that I have never left a doctor’s office for me or my child without an offer of a prescription, REGARDLESS of what the illness might be.
    So- to stop rambling here please consider Turmeric for any mild infections particularly related to the skin. Don’t take my advice- take my suggestion and research it yourself. I cured MRSA and Strep with it a couple of times. All picked up from the floor and hand pads at a martial arts club!Even the healthiest person will contract them in an open rug (gym floor) burn if they are present. The honey topically is very effective also! GROK ON!

    Lila wrote on November 25th, 2011
  32. Somewhat off topic….. I suffered from chronic ear infections as a child. In 1980 when I had my first child, I asked the Pediatrician what I could do to prevent my baby from suffering as I had. The doctor said don’t give the baby any citrus foods at all until at least one year old. I followed this advice with both of my children, the first had zero ear infections and the second had just one.

    Alex wrote on November 25th, 2011
  33. Kids, I’m tellin’ ya, if you get a urinary tract infection eat half a bag or so of crazins (nibble the rest as the day goes on) and drink a couple quarts of water and PRESTO! That infection will head for the exit (literally) and the pain gone in under two hours. I’ve never seen this method fail. Skip the juice and go for the whole dried fruit reconstituted in your gut with fresh, clean water.

    Deannacat wrote on November 25th, 2011
  34. While you’re at it, maybe run barefoot. Really barefoot, not “barefoot in rubber shoes that cut you off from the earth in every possible way.”

    Ashish wrote on November 25th, 2011
  35. You left out the most effective natural treatment that a person can take, colloidal silver. If you try colloidal silver, make sure that it is a high quality product, there is a lot of junk out there.

    Bob wrote on November 26th, 2011
  36. I use colloidal silver. No…it doesn’t turn you blue. People that make their own ionic silver turn blue (not to mention they have no health problems then either. Everyone seems to know the ‘blue’ story which means they get their info from a tv set. The ploy worked because those very people were funded by the FDA to tell those stories. I trust NASA and since the astronauts use it; I trusted it as well. All colloidal silver is not created equally and you need to pay for the good stuff.

    cj wrote on November 26th, 2011
    • Correction: people who make their own *incorrectly* turn blue. There are lots of people, myself included, who make highly effective CS/EIS at home and don’t turn blue. Properly made, using .999+ pure silver and steam distilled water ONLY, there is no danger of argyria because distilled water can only hold a little over 20 PPM of silver before it starts agglomerating and precipitating out. People turn blue when they use tap water and/or add salt and make a concentrated silver soup.

      A much better investment than buying ridiculously overpriced CS from the store is buying one of the more sophisticated, completely automatic, current controlled CS generators (like the SilverGen, Silver Puppy, or Colloid Master) and making your own for about a dollar a gallon.

      Alex wrote on November 27th, 2011
  37. I applaud you for mentioning breastmilk in this article! That is currently my go-to remedy because I have a steady supply of it. If you have an ear infection, sinus infection, or eye infection, applying breastmilk directly to the area will clear it up almost instantly.

    There is a recipe out there for something called Master Tonic that I will be adding to my arsenal when/if I can tolerate peppers. I believe it calls for raw onions, garlic, horseradish, ginger, the hottest peppers you can find, and apple cider vinegar (the raw kind with the mother). Put it all together, ferment for 14 days (there are more steps I think), and you have some awesome healing food.

    Jessica wrote on November 30th, 2011
  38. Im an herbalist, so it was difficult to get a Lyme diagnosis. I knew I needed antibiotics and that herbs wouldn’t cut it to treat the infection. I’ve been on some heavy antibiotics, but with doing paleo & probiotic rich foods daily, my gut feels better than it ever has.
    So I’m grateful about the empowering message of this article. Theres a lot of fear mongering lately about antibiotics. It’s understandable, as they typically are over prescribed. But we also sometimes really need them.
    So folks need not despair. Culturing foods is aeesome

    Renee A.D. wrote on December 13th, 2011
  39. My husband had a recurring bout with C-diff a couple years ago. The doctor was running out of options for antibiotics to give him, so I did some research and found a live strain probiotic called Saccharomyces Boulardii that fixed the problem. I talked to the doctor about it, and she was quite impressed that I figured it out. If you take this probiotic along with the antibiotic prescribed for the C-diff, the end result is the C-diff goes away. Now, to be specific, I said a live strain. What I ordered off the internet was sent to me next day air in a refrigerated package, and had to be kept in the refrigerator until you finished the bottle, and it did have a shelf life. The way it way explained, it contained literally millions of yeast bacteria per capsule, and needed to be refrigerated to be kept alive. In any case, it worked and he hasn’t had another recurrence of C-diff, thank God, because the first two bouts(not to sound dramatic) almost killed him.

    suzb42 wrote on March 22nd, 2012
  40. A great and in depth post. I am not as adventurous when it comes to tea drinking. But here I come! Thanks for the inspiration.

    April wrote on April 2nd, 2012

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