Antibiotics were touted as a miracle shortly after their discovery in the 1940s. It seemed that a medical utopia had been achieved – infections were almost magically wiped out by these “miracle drugs.” Then antibiotics began to be prescribed for everything, even viral infections that are not subject to antibiotics.
Today, antibiotics are commonly prescribed as a precaution, even when no infection is present. They are added to soaps, cleaners, and hygienic wipes. So what’s the problem? Are there both pros and cons to synthetic antibiotics? Read on to find out more.
Cons of Antibiotics
Bacteria have amazing abilities to learn resistance to a simple antibiotic substance. Synthetic antibiotics consist of one “magic bullet” component that is supposed to target the particular germ or germs in question.
Bacteria that are exposed on a constant basis to the single antibiotic component begin to develop resistance, and they then pass this information on to subsequent generations of bacteria. This produces bacteria that are resistant to a particular antibiotic without ever having been exposed to that antibiotic – the “superbugs” that can cause incurable infections. The potential for a medical or biological disaster is very real in the face of such superbugs.
Antibiotics, particularly “broad spectrum” ones, can and do kill off healthy intestinal bacteria. This can have a profound effect on digestive health and the immune system (much of the human immune response is in the gut). With an out-of-balance immune system, an individual is more prone to further infections, allergies, and chronic problems such as intestinal disorders and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Pros of Antibiotics
If there is an emergency, antibiotics can be a life-saver. For most of human history, people suffered terribly from chronic infections, and something simple like a toothache could prove fatal. In an emergency, when a life is at stake, antibiotics can be very effective…as long as there is no resistance that has developed.
Antibiotics in their natural state are less likely to encourage bacterial resistance. Herbal sources of antibiotic substances have multiple – sometimes dozens or hundreds – of active compounds in comparison to the one or two in synthetic antibiotics.
These are definitely the bright side of antibiotics. They are affordable, especially compared to the extraordinary expense of prescription antibiotics. Some natural antibiotic substances, such as garlic, are very widely available and affordable.
All in all, synthetic antibiotics do indeed have the potential to divert biological disasters and to be life-savers. The key is to reserve them until they are really needed.