Sometimes, the things we think will help us most can actually turn out to harm us in some way. Though nothing is all good or all bad – all black or all white – I do want to take an opportunity to talk to you about the issues broad-spectrum antibiotics can cause.
First of all, what are broad-spectrum antibiotics?
Well, broad-spectrum antibiotics are antibiotics that fight against a wide array of disease-causing bacteria. In contrast, narrow-spectrum antibiotics only act against more specific families of bacteria.
To name a few, some commonly used broad-spectrum antibiotics you may know are –
And these antibiotics can have truly beneficial uses – so if prescribed by a doctor, don’t shy away from them.
For instance, sometimes doctors have to prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics before formally identifying the bacteria responsible for a certain illness. This usually happens when there are several possible reasons for a symptom. Not only that, but a potentially dire situation could arise if treatment is delayed – so doctors use broad-spectrum antibiotics when they must act fast.
For instance, with meningitis, the patient can rapidly develop some serious, and potentially fatal, illnesses if broad-spectrum antibiotics aren’t used within a certain time-frame. Clearly, in this case, broad-spectrum antibiotics are necessary.
Also, broad-spectrum antibiotics come in handy when certain bacteria develop resistances to other drugs or narrow-spectrum antibiotics.
However, sometimes the use of these antibiotics can be kind of risky. Here’s why …
First, broad-spectrum antibiotics can potentially change your body’s microbial makeup. For instance, the frequent use of specific antimicrobial compounds can result in the development of organisms that are more-or-less resistant to that particular antibiotic.1,2
Furthermore, the depletion of or damage to the body’s beneficial bacterial flora – or good bugs as I like to call them – can allow for drug-resistant organisms to grow at a rapid rate.
So, how did antibiotics come to exist?
Well, after World War II, the pharmaceutical industry began to boom. Scientists, doctors, and researchers began to use microorganisms to help create a myriad of therapeutic compounds.
In fact, many bacterial diseases that ran rampant before the war – and were often fatal – have come to be managed by the use of pharmaceutical drugs, including antibiotics.3
But, the first effective antibiotic was discovered in the late 1920s by a British bacteriologist, who devoted his studies to healing wound infections.
Long story short, after being away from his lab for a short period of time, Dr. Alexander Fleming returned to find a petri dish with a culture of Staphylococcus polluted by a single colony of mold. Ew, right?
Fleming didn’t recoil, however. Instead, he realized the colonies around the mold were somewhat see-through and appeared to be disintegrating.
He figured the mold was secreting something that caused the surrounding colonies to degenerate. Once Fleming learned to isolate the mold, he discovered it contained a useful antibacterial substance – penicillin.4
So, what’s the problem?
Well, Dr. Fleming never could have known the introduction of such a remedy would lead to the discovery of harmful broad-spectrum varieties. And he likely never imagined he’d eventually be destroying beneficial gut bacteria in the process
It turns out that though broad-spectrum antibiotics can kill multiple strains of bacteria at once, they’re also effectively carpet-bombs you choose to set off inside your own body. And they can snuff out an infection without pinpointing exactly which bacterium is to blame.
Doctors were so thrilled to be able to do this, however, they got a little broad-spectrum antibiotic happy … lazily prescribing them even in situations where their hypothesis was that a virus, which can’t be killed by antibiotics, was the culprit.
And, broad-spectrum antibiotics can quite seriously disrupt the normal messaging systems in our bodies.
When you ingest certain medications, including broad-spectrum antibiotics, you’re essentially killing your microbiome.
And, you don’t want to kill your good bugs!
You absolutely do not want to fumigate your system and kill off your beneficial gut bacteria too.
The thing is, scientists didn’t realize when they created broad-spectrum antibiotics they were bombing bacteria that would eventually be deemed beneficial. Many species we once regarded as bad are now considered really, really helpful.
So, think of it this way … you hit your system with a major dose of broad-spectrum antibiotics. You deplete your good gut bugs and then, as they start to regrow or return, you get another infection and you bomb them again with antibiotics. A cycle begins, and you never end up giving your system the time or support it needs to rebuild itself.
Now, don’t get me wrong, antibiotics can be lifesaving … and there are instances where you SHOULD take them.
But here’s the thing: when it comes to antibiotics, prescriptions aren’t the biggest problem.
What you eat is!
How so? Well, almost all American chicken or beef contains antibiotics.5 And those antibiotics kill lots of the bacteria in your gut – whether it’s good bacteria or not.
Now, you may wonder, “Why do farmers give their animals broad-spectrum antibiotics?”
Well, that’s simple …
They make chickens, cows, and pigs grow faster, larger, and fatter. And farmers want to fatten up their livestock to serve more consumers. It makes perfect sense.
So in the end, you may need to take broad-spectrum antibiotics if you end up with a serious infection. But if there is any way to avoid it, you’ll be helping your body in a major way.
Ask your physician if there’s an alternative course of action before taking any kind of broad-spectrum antibiotic. There may not be … and in that case, it’s best to heal yourself so you can stay strong enough to fight off any ailment.
But, if you’re doctor gives you a choice, stay away. And do your best to choose pasture-raised, non-antibiotic meats when you do your shopping.
Always looking out for you,