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Reducing Exposure to Antibiotics

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Reducing Exposure to Antibiotics

By Blair Lewis, Yoga+

Hailed as “miracle drugs” when they came into widespread use in 1941, antibiotics quickly became a panacea. Because both doctors and patients wanted quick cures, we have been throwing antibiotics at a host of ailments for the past half-century, whether they were required or not. That was a mistake.

That mistake was compounded by failing to confine the use of antibiotics to the medical community. Cattle and other livestock producers began adding antibiotics into the daily feed mix because animals on antibiotics grow faster on less feed, and because these drugs help control the bacterial infections that are the consequence of crowded feed lots. Poultry feed is laced with antibiotics and commercially raised fish get their share too. This over-consumption of antibiotics by both humans and animals gave bacteria every opportunity to develop antibiotic-resistant strains, and they did.

When bacteria are exposed to an antibiotic, many die but a few mutate, passing on their resistance to their hoards of offspring. One lone mutant bacterium can leave more than 16 million offspring in a 24-hour period, so resistance spreads like wildfire. These resistant strains can develop in animals as well as people. Resistant strains in animals are passed on to humans if the animal’s flesh is raw or undercooked. To further complicate matters, drug resistance can jump from one strain to another, as when the bacterium that causes cholera picked up a resistance to tetracycline from the E. coli bacterium, which populates the large intestines of healthy people.

Antibiotic resistance is spreading rapidly. Until recently, we were congratulating ourselves on having nearly obliterated tuberculosis in the Western world. But as resistance to antibiotics has spread in the past decade, TB has come back with a vengeance. There are only a half dozen drugs that are effective against TB, and the standard treatment requires two drugs (four if the patient’s immune system is compromised). Resistance to one of these drugs, Isoniazid, is already common. TB is only one of the better known examples there are dozens more.

Clearly we’ve got to find an alternative to antibiotics. But where does the solution lie? And what can we do in the meantime to curb the spread of drug-resistant microbes?

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Megan, selected from Yoga+ Magazine

Yoga International is an award-winning, independent magazine that contemplates the deeper dimensions of spiritual life--exploring the power of yoga practice and philosophy to not only transform our bodies and minds, but inspire meaningful engagement in our society, environment, and the global community.


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8:37PM PDT on May 1, 2014

Thank you

11:55AM PST on Dec 15, 2011

God what are they having us eat((((

11:25AM PDT on Mar 30, 2011


2:49PM PST on Feb 27, 2011

Milk, Meat and Dairy have the most Antibiotics and hormones.
Just don't use them until you can find a clean source.

1:04PM PST on Feb 19, 2011

I had to take antibiotics for MRSA last year until my skin hurt.
I have always been careful of not taking them and stopped dairy and meat when I found out they were contaminated with antibiotics and hormones. The best way to stay healthy is to eat less and eat natural foods.

7:49PM PDT on Aug 15, 2010


7:43PM PDT on Aug 15, 2010


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12:11AM PDT on Jun 13, 2010

Do everything possible first. If the problem persists after 10 - 14 days, antibiotics could still be necessary.

Sometimes they're not enough. A 5 - 7 day course of steroids might be prescribed when the infection's drug resistant. That's worse -- especially for women.

7:58AM PDT on Jun 8, 2010

Very helpful, thanks.

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