Nutritional Anthropology

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The science and art of living the way nature intended

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Antibiotics, Probiotics and tonsillitis

Q. My doctor has prescribed penicillin for tonsillitis. He also says I should take a “probiotic” to counteract the effect on my guts. Does that sound right? I am 20, and in good health.

A. No. When penicillin saved my life from tropical blood poisoning back in the 1960’s it was rightly regarded as a precious, life-saving medication. Its benefits clearly out­weighed any possible draw­backs. Furthermore the penicillin was injected.

Doctors now rarely inject, but routinely prescribe antibiotic pills. Worse some do so for trivial conditions, many of which antibiotics cannot touch – like most kinds of tonsillitis.

Antibiotics soon will bear a big new warning -- that overusing them makes them less effective.  Doctors must be sure a patient is suffering a bacterial infection, not a virus, before prescribing antibiotics, say the warnings mandated by the Authorities. Too often, doctors prescribe antibiotics for viral earaches, colds and coughs.

Antibiotics have no effect on viruses; they only fight bacteria. Yet the American government estimates that 50 million antibiotic prescriptions are useless and unnecessary. Germs are growing impervious to antibiotics. Penicillin is becoming ineffective. Some diseases have become untreatable by every antibiotic on the market. Any time anti­biotics are used, survivor germs emerge stronger and spread.

This action by the authorities is not before time! I weep to see how these wonder drugs have been used so improvidently. They should have been used as sparingly as possible – only in life-or-death situations. It is incredible to think that they are handed out like sweets. Don’t rely on your doctor to police himself. If he prescribes anti­biotics, ask: “Is my condition bacterial? Is it fatal?”

Now for the “probiotic”. This is a capsule which is designed to smuggle a cargo of “good” bacteria down to your colon. Why would anyone want to do that? That’s because the antibiotics have killed off all those good little elves working away in the dark to keep your colon and immune system healthy, and your biochemistry running sweetly.

So take the hint: anti­biotics create havoc in the guts. As I shall write in a future article, “Make of Your Gut a Herb Garden”, a healthy gut needs THOUSANDS of species of “good” bact­er­ia. In addition, they must be in the right proportions too!

But probiotics are a false promise – they only re­place TWO species. Moreover, that dose will totally disrupt the balance of power with the other 4,992 “good” species. My view is that we should never use antibiotics for trivial ailments. If it were me, in the matter of simple tonsillitis, I would just let nature take its course.


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