Antibiotics wipe out more than bacteria

Just in case you need another reason to avoid taking unnecessary antibiotics, I’ve got one for you. And with cold and flu season just about to settle in for the next several months, pay close attention…

Recent research suggests that antibiotics weaken the immune system… a finding that has earned me the unofficial designation of “least surprised person on the planet.”

Why? Because your gut is the seat of your immune system, that’s why. And as I have reminded you many times before, it relies on a rich microbiome, chock full of diverse populations of good bacteria.

Antibiotics wipe out bacteria with complete indiscretion — it’s what they’re designed to do. And it doesn’t take a genius to guess what some of the unintended consequences of this kind of massacre might be.

Still, I applaud this team of researchers at the University of Virginia for putting it on paper. In this study, they investigated the role the microbiome plays in a form of parasitic colitis. This was sparked after discovering children with more severe infections also had guts with less bacterial diversity.

The team decided to perform an experiment using lab mice to determine the symbiotic relationship at work. This is how they discovered that, in addition to being a main cause of microbiome disruption, antibiotics also lower the activity of neutrophils (the most abundant white blood cell in your body and one of your first lines of defense against infection).

When called to action, the neutrophils of antibiotic-treated mice were slow to respond — leaving the gut, and arguably every other part of the body, vulnerable to harmful invading pathogens. Needless to say, it’s not an outcome anyone taking antibiotics is after. And at worst, it could open the door to infections that weren’t even there before.

This would be a concerning discovery, even if half of all antibiotic prescriptions weren’t completely unnecessary. So the next time your doctor hands you a prescription “just in case,” do your body a favor and reach for a high-quality probiotic — like Dr. Ohhira’s — instead. If you take care of your gut, your gut will take care of you.