Are We Using Antibiotics Too Much?

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Clinical studies and historical evidence have shown that overuse makes drugs less effective, so more and more of us are looking to natural remedies to take up the slack.

For at least one generation, antibiotics were the miracle cure. They were prescribed for everything under the sun, because they tended to work and nobody saw any harm.

Even if antibiotics weren’t the most logical way of curing ailments, or the best way, they were often seen as the easiest. Even today, antibacterials are frequently prescribed for conditions that either don’t respond to them or that will eventually resolve themselves without treatment.

The situation goes beyond antibiotics prescribed for humans, too. In fact, in the United States more than 70% of the antibiotics used are given to animals in order to promote weight gain. Such overuse has made the drugs less effective, as antibacterial-resistant bacteria have become more common.

So what alternatives do we have for someone who is reluctant to go the antibiotic route, or who has a condition that won’t benefit much from a prescription?

For starters, antibiotics should be used only for ailments that they are likely to be effective against. Don’t ask for them just for the sake of having a pill to take. The placebo effect might help, but the long-term costs–especially the increased likelihood of resistant strains developing—aren’t worth it.

Something caused by a virus, like the flu, is not going to be cured by antibiotics, no matter what mothers or grandmothers may have told us when we were little. It’s a waste of good medicine.

Instead, consider natural alternatives to prescriptions. They’ve been around for centuries, with many used by early man in the same way that people today rely on drugstore medications. There are plenty to choose from, too.

Garlic may be the most famous, and it works against a wide variety of harmful bacteria (in addition to its mythical role as protection against vampires). Its natural benefits are best accessed by consuming it raw, so a breath mint might come in handy, but cooked garlic also retains some of the necessary properties.

Another easily accessed alternative is honey. It has worked for many as a topical remedy for centuries. Echinacea is a natural herb that’s been effective, too, although its use is best limited to 10 consecutive days or fewer.

Olive leaf extracts claim to be natural antibiotics. Goldenseal treats sore throats and digestive ailments. There are countless others, but research on many is inconclusive, so tread cautiously if you have any misgivings.

One other substitute for antibiotics is a change in lifestyle. By getting a good night’s sleep, exercising and eating healthy, your body is in a better position to fight off pathogens on its own, reducing the need for antibiotics in the first place.

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