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Are Antibiotics Killing You?

Are Antibiotics Killing You?
by John Bremner

Thank god for doctors and for antibiotics. They save millions of lives every year, but there is a dark side to the use of antibiotics that is not quite so well known. For example, did you know that there is a commonly used antibiotic that can kill, like ecstasy, on the very first dose you take?

The trouble with antibiotics is that they are just so good at what they do, that we start begging for antibiotics as soon as we get ill, and doctors who are already under huge pressures at work just don't have the time to argue. It's easier to give in, and as likely as not the antibiotic will do the job, and not kill you.

However, most antibiotics have some adverse effects, and the side-effects of some commonly used antibiotics can be very dangerous. Plus, the bugs that typically affect us are growing more and more resistant to antibiotics, with the result that there are now E.coli bugs, like the potentially deadly strain, 0157:H7 that are resistant to almost everything medically available, including broad-spectrum antibiotics.

If that's not enough to make you think twice, there is also the effect that antibiotics have on your immune system. When your body defeats an attack by a bug it becomes stronger, and will probably always defeat that bug. However, every time you take a course of antibiotics, you are taking away your immune system's power.

The dilemma is that you may need to take them to save your life, for example if your kidney is compromised by a bacterial infection. But once you've taken broad-spectrum antibiotics, and they no longer work for you, your options become extremely limited. Doctors end up having to prescribe huge doses of antibiotics with cumulative side-effects so dangerous that you may suffer for the rest of your life as a result. Not to mention the damage to your immune system.

Cost of Treatment and How you are Affected
The bugs that affect us mutate so often that no two infections are the same. This means that antibiotics should ideally be tested against a laboratory grown culture of your infection to see which will be most effective. Using a targeted antibiotic that has been tested to see if it kills your particular infection is like using a 'magic bullet'. It will be highly effective, and have fewer side-effects than a broad-spectrum antibiotic.

However, this is expensive. It is cheaper for the doctor to prescribe an antibiotic that is known to be fairly effective against most typical infections that cause similar symptoms to those you are experiencing. The results won't be as good as a targeted antibiotic, the side-effects will probably be worse, and one in five people will probably still have the infection after six weeks because of this strategy, but it's a less expensive option for the NHS than having to pay for detailed lab tests. It's also faster to treat you this way, so if it works for you, you are one less patient to have to deal with next week.

The Dangers
As an example of the dangers of broad-spectrum treatment, some of the side-effects of the fluoroquinolene based antibiotics often used against resistant infections include joint pain and tendon tearing, fluorodosis (fluorine poisoning) heart attack, heart murmur, palpitations, angina, cerebral thrombosis, sudden death on first dose, liver failure, jaundice, gastrointestinal bleeding, diarrhoea, ulcerative colitis, burst intestine, vomiting, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, anaphylactic shock, skin dying or falling off, dermatitis, vasculitis, angioedema, swelling of the lips, eyes, or face, fever, chills, lupus, and going purple.

According to Drug Watch, adverse affects are reported by 35% of women using antibiotics. While it's true that most people don't have the more severe side-effects, if you are one of the unlucky ones, you can be permanently damaged. Fluorodosis, for example, causes severe joint pains, as your body tries to deal with the excess fluorine in your system by depositing it on your bones and joints. It's also very difficult to treat, and doctors often mistake the symptoms for arthritis.

M. H. Dahir 'a Pharmaceutical Association Chairman, says in his article 'The Dangers of Indomethacin - :
"If a bacterium is responsible, it is extremely important for the doctor to know which specific bug is causing the trouble so that he can treat it with the right drug. Using a broad-spectrum antibiotic is a cop-out. It is the lazy way to do medicine, since it allows the doctor to cut out the time necessary to do a proper laboratory work-up and diagnosis."

What to do if you get adverse reactions...
If, after starting a course of antibiotic treatment, you start to get unusual symptoms, such as fever, nausea, a sudden rash, intense itching, stiffness, severe abdominal pain, or swelling, stop taking the antibiotic, and consult your doctor immediately.

The very worst side-effects happen when you are allergic to an antibiotic. Your doctor should be able to provide a non-related antibiotic that won't produce the same adverse reaction.

You can also look for alternative therapies. For example, statistics show that the sugar-related product D-Mannose (available from is more effective than most antibiotics for the majority of urinary tract infections, and it works against antibiotic resistant strains of E.coli 'the cause of most recurrent cystitis infections. It is also claimed to be totally harmless, even for babies.

And the list goes on:

- For throat infections, traditional remedies such as gargling with alcohol are often as effective as any antibiotic.

- Manuka honey from New Zealand, available from most health food stores, is known to kill the Helicobacter pylori bug that causes duodenal or stomach ulcers.

- Galangal has been used since the times of St. Hildegard of Bingen for catarrh, and it doesn't give you a dry mouth or other diuretic side-effects like Sudafed.

- Salt water is as good a decongestant as most commercially available nasal sprays.

- Cider vinegar and a diet change can deal with arthritis more efficiently than most drugs, and instead of side-effects, you get healthy.

- For depression, St John's Wort is non-addictive, unlike Prozac, and there are fewer side-effects.

- Asthmatic or wheezy? Getting a cold? Mix some black cumin seeds with honey and garlic. Used since the times of the Pharaohs, this is cheaper and more effective than any medical preparation, and won't cause brain tumours, unlike some of the 'medical' decongestants available.

The fact is that most of the time, no matter what ailment you are suffering from, you can do better than taking the standard prescription. And think of the money you'll save the health service, and all the time you'll save your doctor.

Oops, sorry to inform you that your operation was unnecessary'
Some people are locked into the idea that 'the doctor knows best', but although this may sometimes be true, medical training often ignores the huge legacy of knowledge from folk medicine and from other cultures, which were in use long before the fairly recent 'science' of medicine came into being. How many surgeons would tell you to take a pint of olive oil and the juice of three lemons (slowly or you'll vomit it back up) to get rid of gallstones? Or would they rather do a bladderectomy?

In the same way, most trips to the hospital or doctor can be dispensed with.

It is up to ourselves to take charge of our own health. Some solid research can make us experts in our own conditions and allow us to take charge of our own treatment.

More info: John Bremner
+44 (0) 1904-340916

About the Author

John Bremner is an expert on bladder infections, UTIs and cystitis. He is controverssial, highly informed, not afraid to speak out, and available for interview. You can contact him on email:
+44 (0) 1904-340916


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