Updated: Nov 22, 2019
Once considered a cure to disease, a miracle drug, does more than just destroy harmful bacteria, it completely alters the gut microbiome destroying most disease-fighting beneficial bacteria in the process.
Our digestive system is its own habitat. There are a plethora of ways that our gut biome is influenced and maintained. From the food we consume to the drugs we put in our body and the products we use to the environment we are exposed to; much of the variables we are actually in control of. Contrary to popular belief, bacteria is actually beneficial to our immune system function which in turn benefits our digestive system. So, how is bacteria beneficial? Many of us have heard the term 'probiotics' and we know that it's considered good bacteria, but how does it actually benefit our body? Friendly bacteria-probiotics such as lactobacillus, bifidus, boulardii, plantarum, and beneficial yeasts grow inside the gut creating colonies that work as part of the normal microflora to create the immune system; fighting off pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria, aid in digestion, and support nutrient utilization. Much of our ability to fight disease comes from how prolific these beneficial bacteria are within our digestive tract. Friendly bacteria help white blood cells fight disease by playing a key role in the development of specific white blood cells known as innate immune cells: macrophages, monocytes, and neutrophils all which work together to create the first line of defense against foreign pathogens, early pathogen control, and coordinate downstream immune reactions. What has been discovered about antibiotics is that with repeated use the responses of the distal gut microbiota had incomplete recovery with the healthy gut flora community. The gut microbiome did not return back to normal and instead had ensuing consequences on the lifespan of the immune system itself.
"Antibiotic perturbation may cause a shift to an alternative stable state, the full consequences of which remain unknown." -PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
What can you do?
It's best to work on the health of your gut and digestive tract as a preventative measure against pathogens and harmful bacteria. When the gut is properly using digestive enzymes, maintains a healthy pH level, and contains a strong community of healthy gut flora the immune system will function at an optimal level. Here are some things we can do to increase the healthy gut flora: include a large array of probiotics, consume adequate prebiotics, and eat a wide variety of fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha. In addition to increased consumption of pro and prebiotics we also need to focus on having a less acidic diet by consuming more alkaline foods and eating less of the junk foods. The more efficient our body can overcome foreign pathogens and increase our overall immune system functions the less we will need to resort to the usage of antibiotics and the ensuing health repercussions that follow the use of these harmful drugs.
Incomplete Recovery and Individualized Responses Of the Human Distal Gut Microbiota To Repeated Antibiotic Perturbation.-L Dethlefsen-D Relman
-Ph.D. Catharine Paddock