The use of antibiotics has changed considerably from 20 years ago, when they tended to be prescribed indiscriminately for any infection. Now, most doctors are very conscious that antibiotics also come with long term costs to our health, in addition to their life-saving benefits.
Antibiotics are one of the major causes of fungal overgrowth and digestive problems like Candida, but they have also been linked to many other serious health problems. This is particularly important in children, whose immune systems are still developing.
I always encourage parents to be extremely careful in giving antibiotics to their children. There is now lots of evidence that taking a more cautious view of antibiotics is actually the best thing for your child’s wellbeing.
The long term effects of antibiotic use
Increasingly, research is showing that the use of antibiotics in infants or children can have serious long term consequences for their health.
The unfortunate effect of antibiotics (particularly the broad spectrum variety) is to kill off many of the ‘good bacteria’ that line the intestines. These bacteria do much more than simply digest food – in fact they are a crucial part of your child’s immune system. Without them, your child is much more vulnerable to serious infection and disease.
You might be surprised to discover what else antibiotics can do to you. An antibiotic named Tequin was taken off the market in 2006 after links to Diabetes were established. A recent study has linked early antibiotic use in children to the later development of eczema. And a 2012 study linked antibiotics to the rapidly increasing incidence of asthma among children.
Are there alternatives?
The most obvious alternative to antibiotics is a few days of rest and healthy eating. So many of us continue to go to work when we’re ill, just because we’re worried that taking days off might be looked upon unfavorably. Don’t make the same mistake with your child – missing a few days of school is not a big deal compared to the long term health of their immune system! Ask your doctor if he thinks the infection will clear up with time, and consider taking a rain check on the antibiotics.
Another big problem with antibiotics is that they are so often prescribed incorrectly for viral infections. In this case the antibiotics will have little effect on your child’s illness, but they will still destroy the balance in your gut and leave your immune system severely weakened. This is a problem in many countries where controls on antibiotics are less stringent, or where they are even available over the counter.
In the case of bacterial gut infections, antibiotics may not even be the treatment of choice these days. In one recent example, a Dutch research team found that fecal transplants were significantly more effective at treating persistent bacterial infections than antibiotics. It might sound disgusting, but injecting donor feces into the small intestine really works. In fact, doctors at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center launched a fecal transplant program just a few weeks ago.
There is a very large caveat with all this, of course – sometimes antibiotics are absolutely necessary and the only treatment option for serious illness. So in that case, what can you do?
If your child has to take antibiotics…
If your child really does need to take antibiotics, there is one very important thing that you can do for his or her health. Taking some good probiotics during the course of antibiotics will not only reduce the immediate side effects of the antibiotics (like Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea), but it will also help to maintain a long term balance of microorganisms in the gut.
Just remember to take the probiotics a few hours apart from the antibiotics. This ensures that the beneficial bacteria in the supplements are not immediately destroyed. If your child is experiencing side effect from the antibiotics, he or she should soon feel more comfortable, and you can rest assured that you’re doing all you can to protect his or her long term health.
In my Candida treatment program I list antibiotics as one of the 8 potential causes of fungal overgrowth. And if I had to rank all those causes by the volume of Candida infestations caused, antibiotics would be placed number one. That’s why it is so important that you fully understand why your child has been prescribed antibiotics. There are serious long term health implications from taking even one course of antibiotics, so question your doctor’s reasoning and make sure that those antibiotics are absolutely necessary.