A recent study published in the European Heart Journal suggests a significant association between antibiotic use and an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. As the authors point out, previous studies have reported similar results. However, this particular study added some new details as it focussed on antibiotic use by women only and participants were assessed by duration of antibiotic use, as well as by their age group.
The researchers say that antibiotic use in mid-life and older adulthood, but not by young women, was significantly linked with the development of cardiovascular disease in later life. They also suggest that cumulative use of antibiotics in different stages of life might be associated with the incidence of cardiovascular disease in elderly women.
Now, I have discussed the potentially wondrous life saving effects of antibiotics before. However, studies that look at the health of populations of people suggest that increased exposure to antibiotics is linked to the development of a vast range of diseases, including autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, coeliac disease, food allergy, asthma and obesity. These authors go on to say that the number of inflammatory disorders associated with antibiotic use, suggests that rather than a single antibiotic medication being to blame, it is likely that an effect of antibiotics in general is having an effect on the body’s inflammatory response.
In fact, we know now that antibiotics don’t just kill the bad, disease causing bacteria, but can also affect our resident bacteria in the gut. And, by altering the composition of the gut bacteria these antibiotics increase the risk of a general inflammatory response in the body.
Scientists believe that antibiotic therapy may also cause the normally health promoting bacteria of the gut to cross the gut barrier, resulting in an inflammatory response. Researchers report that even a single dose of certain antibiotics was enough to cause dysbiosis and movement of bacteria across the gut barrier. They go on to suggest that in susceptible people this could be enough to cause inflammation and associated inflammatory disorders.
Of course there are few people that wouldn’t want the potentially life saving benefits of antibiotics if they really needed them. On the other hand we now have widespread use of antibiotic medicine not just in people but also in animals, which has led to the dangerous rise in antibiotic resistant disease. Furthermore, low dose antibiotics have also been used in agriculture for decades. Altogether this has created an environment where low dose antibiotics are nearly ubiquitous. So that even people not taking antibiotic medication are exposed to low levels from food and water.
Yet, given the results of yet another study showing that antibiotic therapy is linked to increased risk of inflammatory disease, shouldn’t we be looking at other ways to combat infection? I’m not just talking about natural antibiotics here. Though of course there are many herbal remedies such as garlic or ginger, that can fight infection. And, as I have mentioned before, scientists believe that it is unlikely that microbes will become resistant to medicinal plants.
However, herbal antimicrobials do more than fight off invading microbes such as bacteria and viruses. Unlike antibiotics, herbal remedies can stimulate the body’s own immune defences and increase the vitality of the body so that it become more resistant to infection. In fact a herbalist’s view of infection is more preventative or restorative. Involving the promotion of the body’s innate healing force or vitality. Maintaining health through the use of a balanced and fresh, whole foods diet, fresh air, clean water, regular exercise and the pursuit of a positive outlook on life. And where necessary and appropriate the timely and judicious use of antimicrobial herbal medicines.