Get Smart About Antibiotic Use

Author: Shannon Miller

Fall changes in the weather are commonly considered to herald the start of the cold and flu season.

  • Do you often run to the doctor in hopes of getting an antibiotic?
  • Does it ever seem that the antibiotic is “not working?”
  • Do you know if that antibiotic was even necessary?
  • Do you know what can happen when you take too many antibiotics?

When do you need an antibiotic?

An antibiotic’s role is to kill a bacteria that is infecting your body such as:

  • Strep
  • Staph
  • Ear infections
  • Lung infections
  • Skin infections

Antibiotics do NOT treat:

  • Flu
  • Colds
  • Bronchitis
  • Uninfected sore throat

What happens in your body when you take an unnecessary antibiotic?

Antibiotics wipe out bacteria. When you take an antibiotic, you are also wiping out the good bacteria in your system that helps you fight off infection and stay healthy. Therefore, you are actually increasing your risk for infection in the near future, and may need antibiotics sooner rather than later. The more we use antibiotics, the more we become resistant to them. Doctors say that many of their patients have a hard time finding an antibiotic to work because they have overused antibiotics for years, and are resistant to many of them. This could also cause multiple use of antibiotics, which is not good for the intestinal and immune system in the body.

What do I do if I suspect that I have an infection?

Instead of guessing, see a doctor to find out if you have an infection. He should test for infection, such as strep or staph. If he does not see an infection or one brewing, he should prescribe non-antibiotic medication. Many times, the news is not what we want to hear. Viruses usually have to run a certain course in the body, and the medicines just help with symptoms.

How can I build my own immune system?

To lessen your own need for antibiotics, you want to build a stronger immune system, using these recommendations from the Harvard Health System:

  • Quit smoking
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Maintain an exercise regimen
  • Get enough rest
  • Wash hands regularly

Many systems and doctors point to some studies done on Vitamin C and its effect on immunity. Eating peppers and citrus fruits, as well as a Vitamin C supplement could help ward off infection and viruses.

How do I rebuild healthy bacteria?

Many antibiotics wipe out a lot of healthy bacteria that help your body digest food and maintain an immune system.

To get healthier, there are two steps to rebuild the healthy bacteria in your body:

  1. Eat prebiotics. Prebiotics help probiotics do their job, and they help in the absorption of minerals. Prebiotic foods include onions, leeks, and artichokes.
  2. Eat probiotics. Probiotics are a live culture that can be eaten, and then they develop healthy bacteria in the gut. Non-frozen yogurt would be the easiest way to get probiotics in the system.

SML TIP: Stay healthy this flu season by taking prebiotics, probiotics, vitamin C, while minimizing the use of antibiotics, and a living a healthy lifestyle!

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