This week is International Antibiotic Awareness week – where the importance of not using antibiotics unless absolutely necessary is promoted. Antibiotic overuse has lead to drug-resistant bacteria which is unable to be treated, and therefore is very dangerous to the population. Studies have also found that antibiotics promote the formation of biofilms, a coating created by the bacteria which shields it from the immune system and treatment only to be released later and re-infect the host.
It goes without saying that the less antibiotics we use the better. The WHO are now recommending that antibiotic use be restricted, but just 10 years ago antibiotics were given out to most people with any decent sort of cold or ailment. Not only do antibiotics kill bad bacteria, they destroy your beneficial gut bacteria and can lead to dysbiosis, where there is a bacterial or fungal imbalance in the gut.
There are many ways to avoid antibiotic use, with most of them coming down to your own natural ability to ward of illness. Here are our top 7 tips…
- Curb your stress
Stress directly depletes your immune system. We all would have experienced getting run down then catching a cold during times of stress or high pressure. When we treat immune dysfunction, we always need to look at the nervous system; otherwise you are only addressing part of the picture. Ways to reduce stress include making sure that you have time off work, including exercise and relaxation in your daily routine and practicing deep breathing exercises. Naturopathy and acupuncture are great for helping your body cope with stress more effectively, and hypnotherapy or counselling can help to give you some tools to cope with stress better on a day to day basis.
- Get a good night’s sleep
Sleep deprivation is the second largest cause of immune dysfunction. It can often follow stress, as high stress can lead to insomnia and can wake you up during the night. You need to sleep for a solid 8 hours, uninterrupted, in order for your immune system to function at its peak. If you have issues with sleep, try avoiding stimulation one hour before bed, keep the lighting down low and go to bed the same time every night. Naturopathy works well to fix sleep problems, so consider making an appointment if your sleep isn’t ideal.
- Avoid sugar
Sugar depletes your immune system, so if you’re hitting the sweets it could leave you more susceptible to infection. Cut out sugar from the diet in the form of soft drinks, fruit juice, yoghurt, biscuits, cakes, canned food, sauces and spreads. Natural, raw honey would be a great sugar substitute because it contains natural antibacterial properties and is immune enhancing.
- Eat an onion
Onions and garlic have both been shown to have significant immune boosting properties. Including these foods in your diet can help to ward off colds and flus and leave you in a better place to respond if you do come down with something. Try eating a clove of garlic each day during the cold and flu season and use onion liberally in cooking.
- Eat probiotic foods
Did you know that over 80% of your immune system is in your gut? We need to include lots of good probiotic bacteria through the diet to support the natural gut immunity. Probiotic foods include yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha and miso. Check out this article to learn how to make your own probiotic foods.
- Boost up on berries
Berries are one of the most widely studied immune boosting foods. They are high in vitamin C and bioflavonoids, which help to support your own natural immunity to ward of infection. Eat them on their own, put them into smoothies, sprinkle them over cereal or have with some good quality probiotic yoghurt. Berries can be high in pesticides, so try to eat organic if you can (fresh or frozen are fine).
- Get help early on
The best way to avoid getting put on antibiotics when you are sick is to get help early. There are many herbs and nutrients that are clinically proven to help prevent colds and flus, reduce the severity of illness and bolster your immune system. Ultimately, it is your immune system that will be the one to resolve the illness, whether it is with the help of antibiotics or not. Herbal medicines and nutritional supplements help to enhance your own natural immunity so that it can kick the butt of whatever pathogen it is exposed to. If you know you get sick easily, naturopathy can help to get your immune system back on track so this stops happening. If you get a cold or flu that you think is a bit nastier than usual, come and see our naturopaths as soon as possible and they will give you something to help you get better sooner, and without antibiotics. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is also very effective for immune boosting and can help get you back to your life sooner.
We hope these tips will help to reduce your chances of ending up on antibiotics, as we know just how detrimental these are for you. If you have had a lot of antibiotics, we can also help with gut healing and recovery to get your body back in balance. Call us on 07 3367 0337 with any queries.