The issue of antibiotics is particularly disturbing to me. Penicillin became available in 1942 and saved thousands of people during in World War II who would have otherwise died of infections from wounds. Antibiotics cured other illnesses that were previously extremely hard to treat. Antibiotics seemed like miracle drugs. But their remarkable reign has all but ended. The overuse of antibiotics during the past 50 years has caused bacteria to evolve that are antibiotic resistant. Resistance has occurred because 30-40 million pounds of these potent drugs are used every year just in the United States. Over 90 percent of this total is given to livestock to make them grow faster without the chance of dying from infection. This preserves profits for the beef, pork and chicken industries but greatly contributes to the problem of antibiotic resistance. And if we consume these animal products, then the antibiotics get passed along to us.
According to Dr. Stephen Ostroff of the National Center for Infectious Diseases in Atlanta, "antibiotics are very rapidly slipping away as a strategy to combat infectious diseases." Because antibiotics do not differentiate between good and bad bacteria in our gastrointestinal system, they kill both. Some doctors have said that it may take six months for the level of good bacteria in the gut (lactobacillus) to return to normal after just one round of antibiotics. We need the good bacteria to maintain good health. Without them we are left in a weakened state that leaves us susceptible to infection. The infection most common from too much exposure to antibiotics is the yeast infection. Candida albicans and other forms of yeast can be linked to myriad health problems. Dr. Crook discusses these problems in depth in his book The Yeast Connection.
Beneficial bacteria such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are important for gastrointestinal function as they are involved in vitamin synthesis, natural antibiotic production, immune defense, digestion, detoxification of pro-carcinogens and a host of other activities. Imbalances in bacterial flora can be profound and can lead to dermatologic, rheumatologic and other systemic complaints including gastrointestinal disturbances. Imbalances are common with poor nutrition, maldigestion and exposure to pathogenic microbes. The populations of the bacteria in our gut exist in numbers that are mind boggling. There are more bacteria living in our intestinal system than there are stars in the universe! This is why some researchers think the flora collectively function as an organ in its importance in maintaining our internal homeostasis.