Like most Healthy Home Economists, I do my best to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle. While certainly not ever perfect, one main goal of living this way is to feel and do my very best every single day. A second goal is to avoid the health depleting effects of pharmaceuticals like antibiotics as a healthy immune system offers excellent protection from the need to medicate most illnesses.
Some folks might ask why avoid both over the counter as well as prescription meds? The reason is that these substances are unnatural to the body and can cause long term alterations and complications in how the body functions. A recent media story on new FDA warnings on
acetaminophen (Tylenol) comes to mind. Used incorrectly, acetaminophen can cause permanent liver damage! I actually know someone who damaged her liver so badly using acetaminophen incorrectly (taking too much) that she required a liver tranplant! Avoiding simple painkillers by eating traditionally is a huge step toward wellness. Frequent headaches that require over the counter meds is a big flashing sign that lifestyle changes are needed.
Another common medication that folks don’t seem to realize causes long term issues is antibiotics. Let me use a personal example to illustrate the damage a single round of antibiotics can do to your body. For over 8 years, I have managed to avoid taking antibiotics for any reason by maintaining a strong immune system through traditional eating and avoiding most processed foods. This includes a daily dose of fermented cod liver oil (http://www.greenpasture.org/retail/?t=products
) as manufactured in historical Roman times (that is, unheated and very slowly fermented so as to preserve the delicate omega fats and nutritional co-factors) as well as purchasing local, whole foods and preparing meals for myself and my family using traditional preparation methods to maximize digestibility and nutrition. This track record ended in March 2009 when I developed a raging infection in my left knee apparently caused by the bursting of a small cyst that I didn’t even know I had and that had probably been there for decades.
For several days, I ran a high fever ranging from 102-105F (no, I never brought it down .. no big deal if you are healthy .. I will blog about the long term health benefits of a nice high fever another time). While the high fever did not cause me much in the way of ill effects due to my health status, I soon realized that I wasn’t going to get better any time soon without assistance. So, being the daughter and sister of MDs, I contacted my Father and Brother for analysis of the situation. My Brother, who is an Internist, determined that I needed to go immediately on a week long round of an antibiotic that was particularly good at combatting infections such as I was experiencing.
It was amazing how quickly my infection resolved on that antibiotic! Having clean blood and good digestion from a healthy lifestyle supercharges the ability of the antibiotic to fight an infection, no doubt about it. Meds work really well when the body is unmedicated the majority of the time and the gut is well balanced for maximum absorption. Meds tend to not work as well in an unhealthy body for the same reason.
No free lunch going on an antibiotic
While the meds cleared up my infection quickly, I knew there would be some damage to my gut as the antibiotics kill off all bacteria in the body .. both good and bad. With the good bacterial population decimated in my gut, I immediately went on a therapeutic strength probiotic to rebuild the good bacterial colonies in my gut before candida could take hold as well as other pathogenic strains of bacteria that would cause long term health problems. Pathogenic strains of bacteria that tend to take hold after antibioics (the pill decimates good bacteria in the gut too, by the way) can cause anemia that will not respond to iron supplementation as well as obesity! Yes, obesity seems to be caused at least in some situations by imbalanced bacteria in the gut. There is NO free lunch when you take antibiotics, folks. Take them only in the most dire of circumstances.
My probiotic of choice to rebuilt the gut after antibiotics or just due to gut imbalance is called BioKult
Don’t take just any probiotic as most are useless at rebuilding beneficial gut bacteria. Only therapeutic (really strong) probiotics do any good whatsoever, in my experience. In addition, if you are taking a probiotic and still eating primarily processed foods and/or sugar on a daily basis, the probiotic will do you no good. Don’t waste your money on a probiotic until you have made the commitment to healthy and traditional eating. Beneficial gut bacteria have no chance of taking back control of the gut environment when the food consumed is poorly chosen.
Despite going on this strong probiotic, I suffered from a number of annoying health setbacks after this one round of antibiotics in over 8 years. For one, I noticed that I needed to use deoderant for the first time in over 8 years. Why? When the good bacteria in your gut is not dominating, your body will have lots of toxins to expel (an imbalanced gut produces loads of toxins) and the skin is the biggest organ of elimination. The antibiotic had killed off the good bacteria in my gut and now there was imbalance resulting in a toxin overload in my system. Another thing I noticed was that my teeth began to demineralize, apparently stemming from my gut’s reduced ability to absorb food and the beginnings of nutritional deficiency. I developed multiple areas on my teeth that were incredibly sensitive to cold. So much so that if I smiled and the air conditioner in the car was blowing in my direction, my teeth felt extremely sensitive from the cold air! I knew that this was the beginning of cavity formation and that I needed to take more action than just taking a probiotic to rebalance my gut. I needed lots of minerals and more vitamin A/D/K to remineralize my teeth. I began drinking lots more fresh vegetable juice (on an empty stomach, 30 minutes before eating for maximum mineral absorption) and also doubled my daily dose of fermented cod liver oil. These two steps provided the building blocks to clean out my system of toxins and repair my teeth.
The good news is that within a few weeks, between the therapeutic dose probiotic, vegetable juicing, and a double daily dose of fermented cod liver oil, my teeth remineralized (the sensitivity disappeared) and my gut rebalanced to the point where I was able to throw my deoderant away. Can you imagine the damaging health effects folks suffer when they use antibiotics all the time and do nothing to repair the damage? Very devastating indeed. Do not ever take a round of antibiotics lightly!
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Sarah was awarded Activist of the Year at the International Wise Traditions Conference in 2010.
Sarah earned a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Economics from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Government (Financial Management) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mother to three healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, she writes about the practical application of Traditional Diet and evidence-based wellness within the modern household. Her work has been featured by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.