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Antibiotics - destroyers of immunity

Jan'14

I’m so lucky in what I do – I spend a huge chunk of my time talking with people about their horses, and it’s lovely for me to get to know them and their horses, especially when I hear back that their horses are improving 😊

Yesterday I had one such email, and a line in the text struck at one of many thorns in my side. The writer explained that they’d noticed ‘scabby eruptions (on the horse’s belly), vet was consulted and prescribed antibiotics, these did not work, so he examined her and said it was possibly sweat.’ Urgh ... yet another case of antibiotic overuse.

So what's so bad about antibiotics? Simple - they destroy immunity

The word 'antibiotic' literally means 'kill all', so when an antibiotic is fed, it indiscriminately kills the gut bacteria, both the beneficial gut microbes and the pathogen bad guys. Thing is, it's these beneficial gut microbes lying deep down in the small intestine that create the immune system, so if they're killed off, so is immunity.

The immune system is constantly on a seek-and-destroy mission – it’s permanently on the lookout for foreign invaders and mutant cells to exterminate, before they take hold in the form of illness and disease. A single course of antibiotics will permanently change an immune system, especially that of a youngster, and because a majority of neuro-chemicals are also made in the gut, the body’s neurology is also altered. What was once heralded as the saviour of all disease is now costing us in degenerative, chronic diseases.

When antibiotics are administered, the bacteria in the gut is wiped out and the immune system’s ability to manufacture new immune cells is permanently altered. Bad bacteria in the gut is now unobstructed and begins to proliferate, unchecked by the now diminished friendly bacteria, with parasites and pathogens now move in to share the bounty of nutrition and minerals meant to feed the body. This is the first step for chronic disease - everything changes.

The inflammatory double-whammy

Once the bad bacteria sets up shop, they then start munching their way through the intestinal wall which then becomes 'leaky' - we've all heard of Leaky Gut Syndrome - which allows partially digested now-toxic food matter, bacterium and allergens to cross through into the blood. The already weakened immune system now has twice the work to perform, trying to clean up this new leaked toxic threat to the body. And so begins an inflammatory response. The leakage of particles into the blood crossing the now-compromised gut barrier causes inflammation throughout the body, which as we all know is probably the main cause of laminitis.

Is the post-antibiotic era here already?

It’s now happened - a New Zealand man has apparently recently died from a new bacterial strain that is fully resistant to every known antibiotic. This is really concerning. We know that drug-resistant bacteria is nothing new – just like the majority of worms and parasites are now resistant to chemical wormers, pathogens are continually adapting and developing resistance to the very substances originally designed to kill them. However, the fact that there are simply not enough new antibiotics being developed to tackle all these new and virulent superbugs seems to have reached a major turning point - bacteria is now outsmarting the best that modern medicine has to offer.

Worse still, one of main reasons responsible for antibiotic resistance is the widespread use of antibiotics in factory farm animals, which apparently accounts for a staggering 80%-plus of antibiotic use. Administering antibiotics to perfectly healthy livestock for the purpose of bulking them up faster (which for the record is a practice that has been taking place since the 1950's), represents just one of the many ways in which antibiotics have been widely overprescribed. Tthe poultry industry is renowned for administering ‘growth hormone’ to their stock, which we then ingest when we sit down for our Sunday roast – one of many reasons to avoid factory-farmed oven-ready chicken and buy organic. Or just to stop eating meat altogether ...

It's no wonder that we’re now staring at a superbug epidemic. Even Alexander Fleming himself, the creator of penicillin, knew this would happen; to quote him back in 1945 when he received his Nobel Prize for medicine: 'It is not difficult to make microbes resistant to penicillin in the laboratory by exposing them to concentrations not sufficient to kill them. There is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself, and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug, makes them resistant.' Plainly our pharmaceutical companies haven't learned, or at the very least weren't listening.

Once upon a time the solution was simple - develop new antibiotics to replace the old ones. However, this approach is no longer working, and is further exacerbated by the drug industry's refusal to develop new antibiotics, allegedly because they’re not as profitable as other areas of drug research.

What's the alternative?

There is a light at the end of this dark tunnel - you've guessed it - plants! Some essential plant oils possess unique antimicrobial properties that naturally fight and eliminate harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi. Essential oil of oregano and sea salts are just two names which apparently have the capabilities to destroy harmful pathogens, even resistant ones, with oregano oil in particular being touted as the most potent and effective antimicrobial in the essential oil family. Apparently it hits microbes where it really matters, blocking their ability to breathe.

The book 'Beyond Antibiotics: Healthier Options for Families', says: ‘One of the advantages essential oils have over antibiotics is that bacteria do not develop resistance to essential oils . . . another advantage of essential oils is that some actually stimulate immune function.’ For example, oil of oregano is said to be 26 times stronger than conventional antiseptics - Dr. Cass Ingram, one of the world's leading experts on the subject, claims that oregano oil is the ‘Rolls Royce of natural antiseptics’ – not a bad accolade by any stretch. Apparently it’s not only one of the most effective antimicrobial agents in existence, but it’s also one of the safest, producing no negative side effects and targeting only harmful pathogens while leaving beneficial ones alone.

Tests have also shown that oregano oil thrashes conventional antiseptics, commonly used in commercial antimicrobial products, by a factor of 26 to one. This means that oregano oil could be 26 times more effective at targeting and destroying harmful pathogens than even the most powerful conventional products.

Other thumbs up for oregano oil are:

  • M. Belaiche, a French GP, considered oregano oil as ‘the best of the best’, who in 1977 released his official oregano index, using oregano oil as the base reference for comparing the bactericidal action of other substances, setting it as the standard for comparison.
  • Bee Wilder for Healing Naturally by Bee‘The essential oil of oregano has always provided me with amazing results in treating infectious diseases. Besides oregano oil's bactericidal action, it also prevents spasms, convulsions and nervous disorders.’
  • A group of Portuguese researchers found that oregano oil was effective against 41 strains of the food pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.
  • A team of British and Indian researchers reported that oregano oil has strong antibacterial properties that can even kill the hospital superbug MRSA. Professor Vyv Salisbury, who was part of the research, said ‘We have done a few preliminary tests and have found that the essential oil from the oregano kills MRSA at a dilution 1 to 1,000. The tests show that the oil kills MRSA both as a liquid and as a vapour and its antimicrobial activity is not diminished by heating in boiling water.’

Meanwhile ...

If your horse has just had a course of antibiotics:

  • Feed Probiotics - regular administration can have a very useful therapeutic effect. There are quite a few randomised, placebo-controlled trials that have demonstrated the effectiveness of probiotic use during a course of antibiotics for reducing side effects and helping prevent gut infection. And definitely feed probiotics after a course of antibiotics to help repopulate the microbiome. For more info on the incredible thing that is the microbiome, see here: https://equinatural.co.uk/i/the-microbiome-the-missing-organ
  • Prebiotics - an incredibly important part of any regime to protect or rebuild a healthy micro-organism community, prebiotics are the stuff that feed the probiotics, so really effective alongside probiotics at promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
  • Feed before, during and after – where possible, introduce any prebiotic and probiotic supplements before beginning the course of antibiotics so the body can get used to them.
  • Support for the gut – it’s not just the gut flora that’s thrown into turmoil with a course of antibiotics - the gut lining and digestive function take a hit too. To soothe the digestive system, it’s worth considering a gut- cleanser before, during and after the course, to promote healing.
  • Support for the liver – antibiotics take a particular hefty toll on the liver, particularly if they’re prescribed for an extended period of time. Not only is the liver responsible for processing and detoxifying medications, and having to work extra-hard to metabolise chemical treatments - it also has to deal with extra-circulating bacterial death and the intestinal leakage. Milk thistle is probably the best treatment on the planet, even compared to its pharmaceutical alternatives, for treating a compromised liver.

And if you're looking for an antibiotic alternative, see our BioCARE, and our own story behind it.

Jan'14