Antibiotics and gut flora
Good health begins with balance in the body, particularly in the digestive system.
Inside our bodies there are twenty times more bacteria than living cells, and maintaining the correct balance of beneficial bacteria versus harmful bacteria is a crucial part of supporting long-term health and vitality.
Having the right kinds of bacteria (so-called "friendly bacteria"), in sufficient quantities, is essential for everything from healthy digestion and nutrient absorption, to immunity and defence against infections.
What can disrupt gut flora?
The delicate balance of healthy gut flora can be disrupted by a range of circumstances, including excess alcohol, a diet high in sugar, poor digestion, stress, exposure to toxins and environmental pollutants. For the purposes of this article, we will look in more detail at one of the most common causes of bowel flora imbalance - the long-term or frequent use of antibiotics.
How do antibiotics affect the digestive tract?
In this modern age, antibiotics are arguably prescribed and used far more than they should be. As a result, antibiotic resistance - a type of drug resistance where a microorganism is able to survive exposure to an antibiotic - is unfortunately now a fairly common phenomena.
What's more, one of the most notable effects of antibiotics is their adverse impact on the digestive system and the balance of gut flora - they indiscriminately destroy both good and bad bacteria in the body. They work by either killing bacteria or by preventing bacteria from growing - great in terms of bad bacteria, but bad news in terms of healthful bacteria.
This is somewhat ironic, when you consider that people are taking antibiotics in the first place because they are ill, but their medicine is destroying one of the body's primary lines of natural defence.
In fact, the most important part of the immune system resides in the gut, where Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (special antibody-producing cells) works hard to prevent unwanted micro-organisms (such as bacteria and viruses) from entering the body.
Of course, antibiotics have their role to play and can certainly be highly effective in resolving bacterial infections. However, it is important to use them sensibly, in moderation and to support your levels of beneficial bacteria both during and after a course.
Too many bad bugs!
If your levels of good bacteria fall, you provide opportunistic 'nasties' (like bacteria, parasites and yeasts) with an excellent environment in which to thrive and spread.