Antibiotics play an important role in medicine. Without a doubt, they can be absolutely life-saving. However, our own CDC tells us that about 30% of antibiotics used in America are used inappropriately or unnecessarily. That said, we are all generally familiar with the consequences of antibiotic abuse, including the creation of antibiotic-resistant organisms, as well as changes that can happen to the gut microbiota.
But there’s a new discovery with reference antibiotics that is turning out to be very important. We as physicians have always been trained to believe that antibiotics, while affecting bacteria, have no effect on the cells of the human body. We are now learning that this may not be the case. As you will see in the video, new research is demonstrating that antibiotics may have a dramatic effect in terms of damaging mitochondria, the energy-producing organelles that live within our cells. When we recognize that problems with mitochondrial function underlie many of our degenerative conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, the idea that commonly-used antibiotics might threaten mitochondrial function becomes quite important.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a quarter billion courses of antibiotics are dispensed to outpatients in America each year. That means that five out of every six people, on average, are getting a prescription for an antibiotic. The CDC tells us:
At least 30% of antibiotics prescribed in the outpatient setting are unnecessary, meaning that no antibiotic was needed at all.
There are many reasons for concern as it relates to the overuse and inappropriate use of antibiotics. Creating antibiotic-resistant organisms is a major global issue. In addition, new research indicates that antibiotic exposure may significantly increase the risk for obesity, as well as type II diabetes. Continue reading
Autism is a subject on the tip of everyone’s tongue, and an area of ongoing medical research. The more we study, the more we begin to learn what could be at the root of autism, and factors that impact baseline risk for autism, like childhood exposure to antibiotics.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Mark Plotkin, a renowned ethnobotanist who has spent almost three decades studying traditional plant use with the traditional healers of tropical America. Previously, he served as Research Associate in ethnobotanical conservation at the Botanical Museum of Harvard University and now serves as president of the Amazon Conservation Team, an organization dedicated to studying and raising global awareness of the ever-increasing rates of bio-diversity loss in the Amazon region.
Dr. Plotkin made it very clear to me that it is this diversity that allows the Amazon region to respond to changes in climate and other environmental pressures. He further revealed how the diversity of flora and fauna in the Amazon actually influences the health of the entire planet, providing a measure of resilience, or lack thereof, in terms of responding to environmental changes.
This interview really stuck with me. These concepts moved me, and resonated greatly with the understanding we have of what goes on within each and every one of us. Like the Amazon, we are, in great measure, very much dependent upon the diversity of the organisms that live within us. Diversity equals resilience. Continue reading
Dr. Martin Blaser, author of the book Missing Microbes, recently penned a thought-provoking editorial in the journal Science, titled, “Antibiotic use and its consequences for the normal microbiome“.
Dr. Blaser begins by confirming the critical role that antibiotics play in modern medicine. He then reiterates the words of Nobel laureate Alexander Fleming, inventor of penicillin, who in 1945 warned of the potential negative consequences of antibiotics, including the development of antibiotic-resistant organisms.
He then goes on to review how, shortly after their introduction for widespread use in humans, farmers discovered that treating livestock with antibiotics dramatically enhanced their growth. This discovery fostered the widespread use of antibiotics in the livestock industry, which has only persisted and grown over the last six decades. But beyond the historical significance of this discovery, the report calls attention to the fact that antibiotics are associated with important metabolic changes. This finding was a central idea elucidated in Dr. Blaser’s book, wherein he linked current antibiotic mismanagement to the global, ever-increasing rates of obesity. Continue reading