Problem: Antibiotics can be hazardous to your health. Researchers in Denmark have discovered a link between antibiotics and developing Type 2 diabetes.
Solution: There are better, safer, more natural alternative to antibiotics that should be prioritized.
Antibiotics kill many kinds of bacteria. Sounds like a good thing, right? The problem is that they do away with good bacteria along with the bad. Good bacteria are essential for fortifying your immune system, and that’s why it’s harmful to your health to do away with them.
A small number of conditions require antibiotics: pneumonia, bronchitis, MRSA, and cellulitis. That’s about it.
My complaint is that people are instructed to take them left and right, even when it’s not necessary or effective. They don’t work for viral infections, but sometimes doctors still prescribe them. More often, they are taken for bacterial infections, which can be prevented and taken care of by safer methods.
Some doctors (and many patients) aren’t aware of their negative side effects. It’s important to me to raise awareness about their dangers, and caution those who are considering taking them. If they were your only option, the risks would be worth it, but there are usually other routes.
It’s common sense to me that antibiotics should be used with caution.
A study was performed by researchers in Denmark, exploring the possibility of a link between antibiotics use and diabetes development.
According to one of the study’s authors, Kristian Hallundbæk Mikkelsen, MD, “…people who have Type 2 diabetes [now] used significantly more antibiotics up to 15 years prior to diagnosis compared to healthy controls.”
The study showed that people who filled out 2-4 prescriptions had a 23% higher risk for diabetes, and people who filled 5 or more had a 53 percent higher risk.
It concluded: “Our results could support the possibility that antibiotics exposure increases type 2 diabetes risk.”
To make matters worse—people who don’t have an official diabetes diagnosis, but do have pre-diabetes symptoms, have an increased risk of infection. Their higher chances of infection make them likely candidates for antibiotics. This means that people who have pre-diabetes symptoms could end up taking antibiotics, and in doing so, increase their risk of developing a diabetes diagnosis.
This study, along with my experience with my patients, and my research all say: avoid antibiotics. Change your diet and other behaviors—now.
One obvious example is: probiotics.
When antibiotics are the wrong thing, probiotics are one of the most right things we’ve got.
The two words on their own tell the tale. Bios is the Latin root word for “life.” Anti-biotic? Anti-life. Pro-biotic? For life.
Probiotics help maintain the proper balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. Some probiotics are bacteria in themselves, and some help bacteria along. They are very good for digestion, and they protect against harmful bacteria.
Maintaining and replacing good bacteria in your system is even more crucial for older people. There was a study that measured friendly bacteria in people over 60 and found that their guts contained 1,000 times fewer friendly bacteria than those of younger adults.
Whatever our age, making sure our good bacteria are healthy and plentiful is essential to health. And the way to ensure this is by diet or supplement.
A high quality supplement is your best bet. Just make sure it’s coated or formulated to survive efficacy-reducing stomach acids, and contains all or most of these strains of Lactobacillus: Salivarius, Acidophilus, Casei, Plantarum, Fermentum.
Another easy way to fill up your gut with fortifying probiotics is by eating foods that contain them or contain fuel for them (prebiotics). Think about how easy this is. All it takes is a trip to the grocery store, and being a bit more thoughtful when preparing your meals and snack-time. Even what you drink! There are lots of good drinks out there as well, that are jam-packed with essential probiotics. A couple recommendations to start off your shopping list are:
1.) Plain Yogurt (full fat, only flavored with fruit or honey)
2.)Kefir, a drinkable form of yogurt
3.) Sour and dill pickles or sauerkraut
4.) Tempeh (Indonesian fermented soybean dish)
5.) Kombucha tea
6.) Soft cheeses
7.) Sourdough bread
8.) Dark chocolate, more than 70 percent cacao
Since the types of problems that are commonly prescribed with antibiotics are bacterial infections, the way to avoid antibiotics is to prevent bacterial infections.
Just about everything I recommend—good hygiene, healthy diet, exercise, sufficient sleep, staying socially, physically, and mentally active—boosts your immunity and every other preventive and protective function.
You should always check before changing your diet or behavior. A visit to the doctor’s office is especially important, given the Danish research and the near certainty that many of you have taken antibiotics in the past 15 years. If so, make sure your doctor knows about this research and pays special attention to any pre-diabetes symptoms you might have now or in the future.
Action Plan: Choose two items from the list I provided of probiotic sources, and eat them every day.
Mikkelsen, Kristian Hallundbæk, Filip Krag Knop, Morten Frost, Jesper Hallas, and Anton Pottegård. “Use of Antibiotics and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Population-Based Case-Control Study.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2015.
Taubert, D. The Journal of the American Medical Association, Aug. 27, 2003; vol 290: pp 1029-1030. Serafini, M. Nature, Aug. 28, 2003; vol 424: p 1013. U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory.
Endocrine Facts and Figures: Diabetes. First Edition. 2015.
Boursi B, Mamtani R, Haynes K, Yang Y-X. The effect of past antibiotic exposure on diabetes risk.Eur J Endocrinol. 2015;172(6): 639 – 648.