All about antibiotics

Everything you need to know

Antibiotics are medications that are used to treat a variety of infections caused by bacteria. Learn all about them here.

Antibiotics are medications that are used to treat a variety of infections caused by bacteria (microscopic organisms that can sometimes cause illness). Antibiotics work to destroy or slow down the growth of bacteria.  Many forms of bacteria are harmless, but there are also bacteria that can cause more serious illnesses such as salmonella, tuberculosis, syphilis and meningitis. In most cases, before bacteria can multiply and cause symptoms, a person’s immune system can usually destroy them. The body’s white blood cells attack harmful bacteria in the body. Even if some symptoms occur, the immune system can usually fight off the infection rather quickly and efficiently.  However, if the body isn’t able to fight off these bacteria, then antibiotics are necessary to destroy those harmful bacteria.

The very first antibiotic was penicillin, discovered by the Scottish scientist and Nobel laureate, Alexander Fleming, in 1928. Dr. Fleming lost interest about testing its effectiveness on the treatment of open wounds. 10 years later, Howard Florey of Australia began to test this drug on humans. In 1945, Florey, Fleming and Ernest Chain (German-born British biochemist) jointly received the Nobel Prize for its discovery and its uses as a chemotherapeutic agent.

Antibiotics work wonders to rid the body of many illnesses. For people that are sensitive to medication, some side effects may occur, such as nausea or actually vomiting. Other issues such as diarrhea and skin issues have been noticed. Kidney stone development, increased sensitivity to sunlight, and even blood clot formations can occur.

As side from potential side effects, overusing antibiotics can present some potential dangers as well. Overusing an antibiotic can lead to the development of resistant bacteria, which are bacteria that no longer respond to antibiotics that many have worked to destroy them in the past. In these cases, this hyper-resistant bacterium requires a very strong form of antibiotics to ride the body of this illness. Scientists have to constantly be working to create different antibiotics that are not resistant. Unfortunately, now there are many bacterial strains that have no existing antibiotic that can treat it.

Antibiotics work to essentially “kill” the bacteria that are causing an illness. However, these also kill good bacteria that our body needs to stay healthy.  Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria are examples of “good” bacteria that aid in digestion of food in the intestines.  In order to replace those beneficial good bacteria after taking antibiotics, a person should eat one or two cups of low-fat yogurt each day. Make sure to eat yogurt that contains live and active bacteria cultures, which will help replace the “good” bacteria in the body.  Taking a probiotic supplement is always helpful as it contains live cultures, too. These supplements can be taken in the form of capsules, powders, tablets and liquids.  One other suggestion is to eat miso soup every day for about a week. This soup is made from naturally fermented soybeans and the unpasteurized type of soybean contains many good Lactobacillus bacteria that help replenish “good” bacteria. Miso soup is also low in fat, high in protein and a great source of vitamins and minerals.

When taking antibiotics, make sure to follow instructions carefully, only take them if you have a bacterial infection/illness to avoid overuse (a doctor can then prescribe you an antibiotic to take) and be sure to replenish good bacteria after taking the antibiotic. 

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