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By: Dr. Sushma Shah - Naturopathic Doctor


Antibiotics are strong medicines that can stop some infections and save lives. The triumph of antibiotics over disease-causing bacteria is one of modern medicine's greatest success stories. Since these drugs first became widely used in the World War II era, they have saved countless lives and blunted serious complications of many feared diseases and infections.

After more than 50 years of widespread use, however, many antibiotics don't pack the same punch they once did. Antibiotics can cause more harm than good when they arenít used the right way. You can protect yourself and your family by knowing when you should use antibiotics and when you shouldnít.


No. Antibiotics only work against infections caused by bacteria. They donít work against any infections caused by viruses. Viruses cause colds and most coughs and sore throats.


Usually antibiotics kill bacteria or stop them from growing. However, due to the widespread and often use of antibiotics evolutionary changes have occurred in some bacteria that has resulted in the production of resistant strains of bacteria to specific antibiotics so the antibiotics donít work against them. Resistant bacteria develop faster when antibiotics are used too often or are not used correctly.

Resistant bacteria sometimes can be treated with antibiotics to which the bacteria have not yet become resistant. These medicines may have to be given intravenously (through a vein) in a hospital. A few kinds of resistant bacteria are untreatable.

While antibiotic resistance benefits the microbes, it presents humans with two big problems: it makes it more difficult to purge infections from the body; and it heightens the risk of acquiring infections in a hospital.


  • Nearly two million patients in the United States get an infection in the hospital each year

  • Of those patients, about 90,000 die each year as a result of their infection-up from 13,300 patient deaths in 1992 (approximately 7 fold increase)!

  • More than 70 percent of the bacteria that cause hospital-acquired infections are resistant to at least one of the drugs most commonly used to treat them

  • Diseases such as tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, malaria, and childhood ear infections are now more difficult to treat than they were decades ago due to antibiotic resistance

  • Persons infected with drug-resistant organisms are more likely to have longer hospital stays and require treatment with second or third choice drugs that may be less effective, more toxic, and more expensive

In short, antimicrobial resistance is driving up health care costs, increasing the severity of disease, and increasing the death rates from certain infections.


Donít expect antibiotics to cure every illness. Donít take antibiotics for colds or the flu. Often, the best thing you can do is to let colds and the flu run their course. Sometimes this can take 2 weeks or more. Call your doctor if your illness gets worse after 2 weeks.


Strengthen your immune system so your body is not susceptible to frequent colds and flus - this is especially important if you get sick often.


The answer depends on what is causing your infection. The following are some basic guidelines:

  • Colds and flu. Viruses cause these illnesses. They canít be cured with antibiotics

  • Sore throat. Most sore throats are caused by viruses and donít need antibiotics. However, strep throat is caused by bacteria. A throat swab and a lab test are usually needed before your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic for strep throat

  • Ear infections. There are several types of ear infections. Antibiotics are used for some, but not all, ear infections

  • Sinus infections. Antibiotics are often used to treat sinus infections. A runny nose and yellow or green mucus do not necessarily mean you need an antibiotic


  • Antibiotics have side effects. One of the most common is antibiotic-associated diarrhoea (AAD) ó a potentially serious condition that affects up to 20 percent of people receiving antibiotic therapy

  • AAD occurs when antibiotics disturb the natural balance of "good" and "bad" bacteria in your intestinal tract, causing harmful bacteria to proliferate far beyond their normal numbers. The result is often frequent, watery bowel movements

  • Most often, the diarrhoea is fairly mild and clears up shortly after you stop taking the antibiotic. But sometimes you may develop colitis, an inflammation of your colon, or a more serious form of colitis called pseudomembranous colitis. Both can cause abdominal pain, fever and bloody diarrhea. In cases of pseudomembranous colitis, these symptoms may become life-threatening


  • Feeling sick and being sick

  • DIAPER RASH - Contact diaper rash and fungal diaper rash in babies

  • Fungal infections of the mouth, digestive tract and vagina: ORAL THRUSH and VAGINAL YEAST INFECTIONS (yeast proliferation in the body)

  • RASH ON THE BODY: Allergic rash includes hives, Pinpoint red or white bumps, lacy type of red rash


  • Formation of kidney stones with the sulphonamides

  • Abnormal blood clotting with some of the cephalosporins

  • Increased sensitivity to the sun with the tetracyclines

  • Blood disorders with trimethoprim

  • Deafness with erythromycin and the aminoglycosides

  • Rash, swelling of the face and tongue, and difficulty breathing due to penicillin allergy


The digestive tract maintains a balance between healthy and potentially harmful micro-organisms. Healthy micro-organisms, also called micro flora/probiotics , are residents of the digestive tract that have a protective role in our bodies. In addition to its protective role, micro flora helps to synthesize important vitamins, nutrients and enzymes, such as the lactase needed to digest lactose in milk and dairy products. Besides the digestive tract, micro flora reside in other areas where mucous membranes are exposed to the environment, such as the skin, respiratory tract and genital-urinary tract.


  • Probiotics can be used in situations where the intestinal micro flora balance has been disturbed and related digestive tract dysfunction occurs. Besides improving digestion and preventing gas, bloating, and bad breath, probiotics are beneficial in many other situations

  • Immune System - Bifidobacterium has been shown to enhance the function of the immune system. Natural cellular immune functions are known to decline as we age. Research shows that supplementing Bifidobacterium Lacis enhances the production of immune system cells known to be active against viral infections

  • After and with antibiotics: Probiotics in combination with and following antibiotic therapy can facilitate regrowth of a healthy microbial population


  • The most common strains of probiotics are Lactobacillus acidophilus for the small intestine and Bifidobacterium bifidum for the large intestine

  • FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides): Synthesized naturally from sucrose, it is not digested by the small intestine but is fermented in the colon. A linear relationship has been found between the amount of FOS consumed and the count of bifidobacteria in the intestine. Excess FOS could cause excess gas, abdominal cramps, and bloating, many probiotics have only small amounts of FOS in the range of 200mg

  • Each capsule or dose should contain more than 1 billion viable bacteria

  • Opaque bottles: Bifidobacteria is anaerobic, meaning that it lives and grows in the absence of oxygen. One study found that bifidobacteria could survive and multiply better in glass bottles than plastic containers, probably because oxygen cannot permeate glass bottles easily. For this reason, also look for opaque containers

  • Look for products that have vitamin C (ascorbic acid), whey protein, or cysteine added. Vitamin C acts as an oxygen-scavenging agent and can improve the survival and multiplication of bacteria such as Lactobacillus. Studies have found that whey protein and the amino acid cysteine also improve the viability of bacteria


Usually cultured with Lacto acidophilus bacteria. (From the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000) Mechanically fermented milk has shown to cause an increase in the human gut bacterial content.

Benefits include:
  • Increased short chain fatty acids

  • Increased bacterial activity in the large intestine

  • Improved immune defense system, intestinal transit, muscle mass and cardiovascular disease


All of the above benefits including the added benefit of isoflavones Ė genistein and daidzein found in soy, which has a more beneficial cancer chemo protective effect.


Based on the premise that microorganisms in the dirt influence the maturation of the immune system, based on the research of David Strachan, an epidemiologist in 1989.

Benefits include those mentioned above plus:
  • Successful intestinal colonization as they are impervious to stomach acid

  • Strengthens the immune system

  • Provides lactoferrin supplementation- an essential byproduct of metabolism, which is essential for retrieving iron from foods

  • Has been clinically researched for the use various GI conditions

When selecting a probiotic, it is necessary to consider the intended use of the probiotic, its source, its site of isolation and characteristics of the strain. It is wise to consult a health care provider or naturopathic doctor who will evaluate the symptoms, identify exactly what species is causing your symptoms using scientific testing, evaluate your options of natural treatments, and recommend the most appropriate probiotic supplement.

Please ask your doctor or naturopath before starting on any supplements. Its is better to first identify the cause and then treat it with the right remedies, even though those mentioned above have minimal side effects.

The information on this handout is the property of SUSHMA SHAH N.D., and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any disease. For any questions, or concerns, please contact me at 416 913 4325 (HEAL) or email me at

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