The buzz around overuse of antibiotics focuses on antibiotic resistance, but the danger lies in destruction of the normal, protective flora and immune balance.
For decades now, researchers have been figuratively screaming at clinicians to stop the antibiotic overuse. These voices largely seem to fall on deaf ears as antibiotics are still used routinely for things like viral infections, upper respiratory tract infections and routine dental work. Many doctors and parents are hesitant to use a watchful waiting period instead of antibiotics.
Maybe the use of antibiotics remains so pervasive before prescribing doctors do not really understand the relationship between a healthy bacterial flora in an infant and child’s gut and the delicate balance of their immune system.
We have seen studies that suggest up to 91% of kids, by the time they hit 32 months, have received antibiotics. This is frankly, appalling. My son Keegan received his only course of antibiotics at about 5 1/2 years old, which was, of course, followed up by a course of probiotics.
The relationship between the bacteria in our gut and the healthy development of the immune system has been demonstrated time and time again for over a decade. Any lack of understanding of this relationship, at this stage of the research, is unforgivable.
Some examples include:
- 2004-Lactobacillus calms inflammation in the joints.
- 2004 – using gut bacteria to prevent colitis.
- 2004 – bacteria in the gut can affect the dendritic cells, a key immune regulator.
- 2005 – healthy bacteria led to less allergies, bad bacteria led to more.
There are many more, but you can get the idea that this concept is nothing new.
One of the scariest aspects of overuse of antibiotics, though, is the potential to increase the risk of inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
These are potentially devastating autoimmune conditions of the gut that lead your body’s immune system to attack itself. In bad cases, large sections of the small intestine or colon need to be removed. It can be debilitating.
And it’s happening to our kids. This is not a condition any child should have to deal with. But they are. And you can bet that rampant use of antibiotics is playing a very large role.
This particular study looks at just how strong the link between antibiotic use as a child and inflammatory bowel disease is. And it’s much stronger than anyone would’ve thought:
- The rate of developing IBD in children who had been given antibiotics was 84% higher.
- Any use of antibiotics during childhood increased the risk, but this declined as the child got older.
- Use before 1 year of age increased the risk a massive 551%.
- Use between age 1 and 5 increased the risk 262%.
- Use between 5 and 15 years increased the risk 157%.
- Each use of antibiotics increased the overall risk of developing IBD 6%.
- The more doses the worse, with >2 antibiotic courses increasing the risk 477%.
These are some VERY serious numbers. Let me reiterate again that inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can be devastating conditions.
Put this into perspective the next time your pediatrician recommends antibiotics for your 6 month old’s ear infection instead of avoiding dairy and adding probiotics. It’s that clear cut.
Better yet, if your child’s pediatrician is recommending antibiotics when not absolutely, positively necessary, ask what the potential long term risks are of a single course of antibiotics. If they give you a blank stare, it’s time to find a new one…
How old was your child when he or she had his or her first course of antibiotics?