Arguments against antibiotic use. A few amongst very many

You have “an overgrowth” of a “bad” bacteria, so I am prescribing antibiotics to kill it”.

Has your doctor ever told you that you have an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria or something similar?

Have they offered antibiotics as the solution?

Did they run any tests to prove their assertion? If so compared to what is your bacterial population unhealthy? How do they know it is an unhealthy population?

If an unhealthy balance in the relative sizes of the populations of different species of bacteria is the problem in your intestines how could this state have arisen? 

If an unhealthy balance in the relative sizes of the populations of different species of bacteria in your intestines is the problem how could this state of affairs have come about?

Did one of them suddenly mutate, becoming SuperBacteria™, and outcompeting all others for space in your intestinal tract?

I doubt it.

The only ways I can think of for this to happen are the following two scenarios*:

  1. A dysenteric illness;
  2. Antibiotic use

Experiencing a dysenteric illness. One in which you violently emit vomit and diarrhoea for days, denuding your entire intestinal tract of much of its microbial variety.

It is, for this reason, that it is hypothesised the appendix evolved, to act as a reservoir, the structure like that of an antechamber attached to the colon. It acts like a life raft, as an ark in Biblical terms, for enough of each species to survive to allow recolonisation of the colon once the illness has passed.

That is how important bacterial “balance” is. It also illustrates how destructive antibiotics can be, if we developed an organ to preserve microbial variety then anything that harms that variety clearly has the potential to do enormous harm.

We evolved an organ to preserve microbes and microbial variety!

Bear that in mind anytime you are told to take antibiotics and ask if you have to take them. If I am told I will get better eventually, but it will take longer than if I take antibiotics, I do not take them. I fill the prescription in case I get ill, but I do not use them unless it is clear I really need them.

The appendix cannot protect microbes from antibiotics (ABx). Nor are ABx discriminating, each type kills astonishing numbers of bacteria in terms of variety. When you take them it isn’t just that the variety you host is reduced. It is that some of those that remain will proliferate beyond all “normal” bounds, and not just bacteria exist to fill that void of course. There are various yeasts and viruses. Not just in number but likely in terms of the areas of the intestinal tract they colonise. These changes represent a profound change in the signals that the host immune system receives.

A neat segue to the only other reason I can think of is the use of antibiotics. It was long assumed that things got “back to normal” quite quickly after taking ABx, but when someone bothered to look, this is from memory and I am not going to find the citation, they stopped looking after three years, when there were changes still apparent in the microbial makeup in the subjects’ intestinal tracts.

So, to fix an issue of an “overgrowth” of this or that bacteria by killing that species and for argument’s sake probably half of the species in your intestines at the same time to restore “balance” seems to me to be absurd.

While it may produce the desired result, temporarily probably, it is also likely to further impoverish the variety of species present in your intestinal tract.

It may well fix the issue in your stomach or your colon, perhaps even in the long term. Perhaps.

But has your doctor considered or discussed with you the potential consequences in other areas of your intestinal tract?

If you are being told to use ABx in circumstances like this please consider with your doctor every other approach you can. For instance, have you tried probiotics and fermented foods?

Have you read this blog post of mine?

There is a reason small children are constantly putting foul things in their mouths. If that were deleterious to their survival odds back in the day when ABx did not exist, humans, it seems to my uneducated mind would have evolved to manifest the opposite behaviours when young.

Perhaps small children cramming disgusting things in their mouths is an evolved behaviour? Like the appendix in a way, but to ensure we acquire sufficient microbial variety, rather than to preserve it? To prime our immune system by populating our intestinal tracts with the variety of microbes required for health?

Just some things for you to consider and to discuss with your doctor/s.

*As with everything and anything I say, or write, nothing written here or elsewhere on this site should be interpreted, construed and most of all acted on as though it were medical advice. I never went to college, never mind not being an MD. Anything you read here is for your consideration and if you believe may have merit for discussion with your doctor. I am not a doctor, nothing I write here should be considered as medical advice.

*There are clearly others, a change in diet so that the food available in various parts of your intestinal tract are changed substantially resulting in a change in microbial population.

**NOTHING I write is meant to diagnose, treat or prognosticate on any disease or illness.

The context of helminthic therapy and the environmental diseases it can be used to ameliorate

I want to emphasise that I believe what we are doing exists in a much broader, well-established context.

The diseases we are trying to work with are all environmental in origin. The hygiene hypothesis essentially says that because we have impoverished the environments defined by our bodies by reducing the variety of organisms that populate us, we are getting sick.

Helminthic therapy is an attempt to restore health by remediating the ecosystem formed by the subject’s body. As in the reintroduction of wolves to control deer populations.

I believe that the most important, eventual, outcome of what we are doing will be to get mankind to see that our health is intricately intwined with our environment. That hundreds of millions of people are already sick right now because of anthropogenic environmental change.

That the environment, our ecosystem, is not something up in the sky or separate from us. That it is part of us, and intricately connected with us, our health, our daily lives, that we are component parts of one integrated, dynamic system.

That the ecosystems defined by our bodies and immediate environment, and our daily habits, have been so damaged that hundreds of millions of people are living lives limited by pain, fear and suffering.

If we succeed in that then a profound change in human behaviour towards our planet will occur. Because everyone will be conscious of their direct stake, theirs or their children’s health, in the health of the planet as an immediate phenomena. Not as some distant possibility that we might be able to put off by using the recycling bins.

That there are not ecosystems, except as artificial concepts. There is an ecosystem, and everyone”s health depends on it in profound and immediate ways, because we are all part of it.

We are the ecosystem. I am the ecosystem. You are the ecosystem.

Further, right now, our species in the industrialised and industrialising world, is under enormous selection pressure. Those with MS or Crohn’s, just two instances, will be much less likely to choose to procreate.

Ironically it is likely that many of the diseases we can address with helminthic therapy arise out of genetic adaptation to parasite/microbe rich environments. So in a sense the best adapted specimens, the very latest genetic models of humans, are those experiencing the worst consequences of environmental change.

We are witnessing not just the extinction of various species, but also a strong and rapid change in mankind’s genetic makeup.

I recognise that we should not attempt to “boil the ocean” as a friend used to put it, but I think if we frame this correctly we will find more allies than at first it might appear, and be able to present the concept of what we want to achieve in a more recognisable, and palatable, framework. We can just fit in, perhaps, rather than trying to present something entirely alien. If we are another environmental cause our pool of allies increase, and our messages are easier to understand, fit within a contextual and conceptual framework that is familiar.

That really is it for a while, enjoy your summers. Get outside, get dirt under your fingernails, get some sunshine, and get some river water down your nose.