Are Antibiotics Harming Your Body More Than You Think?

It’s not uncommon for a doctor to prescribe antibiotics when you’re feeling under the weather, just to be on the safe side. However, recent studies have shown that the side effects of antibiotics can be much stronger and more complicated than previously recognized, even leading to long-term health issues. Most of us are aware that antibiotics can disturb the healthy probiotic bacteria in our digestive system, but new research reveals the effects on our overall health extend much further.

The Hidden Dangers of Antibiotics

Scientists at Oregon State University, in their study of antibiotics, believe that taking these medications too often can have a range of harmful effects. Overusing antibiotics can lead to immune system issues, make it harder for the body to metabolize sugar, affect the absorption of nutrients in the intestines, increase the likelihood of weight gain, and generally add stress to the body.

Alarmingly, about 40% of adults take at least one antibiotic prescription annually, and around 70% of children take at least one per year. To make matters worse, antibiotic residues can also be found in our food, as farmers often give these drugs to livestock.

While antibiotics can undoubtedly provide life-saving benefits when curing bacterial infections, research suggests that over 10% of users experience acute problematic side effects. The effect of antibiotic use on our health is only just beginning to be understood, as Andrey Morgun, who teaches at Oregon’s College of Pharmacy, explains: “Just in the past decade a whole new universe has opened up about the far-reaching effects of antibiotic use, and now we’re exploring it. The study of microbiota is just exploding. Nothing we find would surprise me at this point.”

The Complete Picture: Antibiotics and Your Gut

The Oregon lab study delved into the overall impact of a variety of commonly used antibiotics on laboratory animals. “Prior to this, most people thought antibiotics only depleted microbiota and diminished several essential immune functions that take place in the gut,” says Morgun. “Actually, that’s only about one-third of the picture. They also kill intestinal epithelium (the lining of the digestive tract).”

Destruction of the intestinal epithelium is significant because it plays a crucial role in nutrient absorption, our immune system, and other biological functions that impact our health. One of the most concerning discoveries in this research is the negative effect that antibiotics have on mitochondria in the digestive tract.

Mitochondria: A Vital Part of Our Health

Mitochondria are minuscule structures that produce cellular energy and are essential for proper growth. When antibiotics disrupt the function of digestive mitochondria, it threatens the basic ability of our digestive system to work effectively. This disruption can lead to conditions such as diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, and other severe diseases.

Understanding the potential harm of antibiotics on our bodies, especially related to long-term use, is crucial when considering treatment options. While antibiotics can save lives, it is essential to be aware of the possible side effects and how they can impact our overall health. If antibiotics are needed, be sure to discuss potential risks with your healthcare provider and follow their recommendations for proper use and dosage.

Supporting a Healthy Microbiome

Given the potentially harmful effects of antibiotics on our gut, it’s vital to support a healthy microbiome as much as possible, whether we need to take antibiotics or not. One way is to consume a balanced diet that includes a variety of whole, unprocessed foods, rich in fiber and vitamins, which can aid in maintaining a diverse gut microbiota.

Another way is to include probiotics in our diets, either through natural sources such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi, or through high-quality supplements. Probiotics can help fortify the good bacteria in our gut and support a balanced microbiome.

Additionally, reducing sugar intake can be helpful, as sugar can feed harmful bacteria, resulting in an imbalance in the gut. Being mindful of the impact that foods and medications can have on our gut health is an essential step in improving our overall well-being and decreasing the risk of potential long-term problems related to antibiotic use.