Three-hundred and fifty federal government cafeterias will enjoy ‘low-antibiotic’ food starting at the beginning of 2016, and during a White House summit on antibiotic use last week, voluntary pledges from 150 food processors, restaurant chains, hospitals, and drug companies vowing to phase out the use of meat from animals treated regularly with antibiotics will change the food landscape for the better.
The White House issued a memorandum finally heeding the warnings of scores of scientists and nutritionists that antibiotic overuse has grown to epic proportions, and subsequently is causing serious health issues.
A recent study showed that doctors were prescribing antibiotics so frequently that 4 out of 5 Americans were using them at least once a year, and this doesn’t account for the antibiotics given to animals meant for meat, egg, and milk production, or the antibiotics that are in our water supplies which we drink and bathe in daily.
Though antibiotics have been widely available since the 1940’s, it is only in recent decades that we have begun to rely upon them so heavily. Of the many problems that antibiotic overuse causes, there are 5 which are particularly alarming.
5 Huge Problems of Antibiotic Overuse
- 1. Antibiotic overuse has led to many cases of fatal diarrhea in children. This is because antibiotics change our gut flora and children’s intestinal flora are much more sensitive since their immune systems are still forming.
- 2. Antibiotics can cause good bacteria to go ‘bad.’ There is a delicate balance in our gut flora that keeps certain organisms like Candida in balance, but when allowed to overgrow, they can cause everything from eczema to cancer. Horizontal gene transfer through gut bacteria can be problematic. For instance, one study found that bacteria passing through the colon could transfer their resistance genes to other forms of bacteria.
- 3. Healthy adults have altered gut flora after antibiotic use. It isn’t as much of an issue anymore, but for a long time doctors would prescribe antibiotics to combat viruses, when antibiotics only work against bacteria. But even when used appropriately to extinguish bacteria, they don’t discriminate between good and bad bacteria. In other words, antibiotics kill off all the good bacteria along with the bad, and it can take months to restore a healthy gut flora balance in the body (if it even happens). Only after taking numerous rounds of probiotics and altering the diet will your friendly flora be fully restored. For some who don’t take these measures, their gut flora is permanently altered.
- 4. Antibiotics are increasing cases of untreatable Gonorrhea, and other unsavory diseases. Essentially, harmful bacteria become resistant to antibiotics to such a degree, that they become deadly.
- 5. Antibiotic overuse is driving up health care costs to the tune of as much as $20,000 per patient. That’s what it costs in most hospitals to care for someone with an antibiotic resistant infection.
While the White House hasn’t been specific about serving ‘lower-antibiotic’ food, at least this is a step in the right direction to halt the growth of superbugs and disease caused by antibiotic overuse. Now, we need to address the use of herbicides and pesticides, which are equally to blame for this problem.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.