health brief

The Microbiome and Antibiotics

Infections requiring antibiotics are becoming harder to treat

by Dr. Christine M. Kaczmar

The Microbiome and Antibiotics, Image:

The gut (gastrointestinal tract) is loaded with an abundance of wonderful bacteria and yeast. In fact, most people will have about 3-4 pounds of these wonderful “good bugs” living in them! Some of the 100 trillion bacteria present in the gut aren’t entirely good, but are kept in healthy checks and balances as part of the body’s natural regulation.

The gut microbiome all starts at birth — we think. Current belief is that we are first exposed to microbes following birth, yet some evidence supports that there are microbes present in the infant’s meconium (first stool) and the placenta, however what role they play is not fully understood.

What scientists and researchers do understand about infant gut microbiota is that the first microbial “settlers” in an infant’s gut, or the first microbes to colonize, have long-lasting effects on microbiome development. Infants who are born vaginally are first colonized by the maternal vaginal flora, as opposed to C-section infants who are exposed initially to skin microbes. The use of antibiotics in infancy, especially in pre-term infants, can alter the makeup of the gut’s microbiota and the variety of certain good bacteria populations.

The CDC reports that 2 million people are affected by a bacterial infection each year in the U.S., resulting in 23,000 annual deaths.

Infections requiring antibiotics are becoming harder to treat because the bacteria are outsmarting the medication and adapting to current therapies. Some are becoming “superbugs,” resistant to top-of-the-line medications used to treat antibiotic-resistant infections. These bacteria are changing at the genetic level, to adapt to the presence of antibiotic therapy, and survive. The cause of this, surprisingly, is over-prescription of antibiotics.

Adults each have a unique microbiome, and the use of antibiotics can alter this in several body sites including the throat and saliva. As previously stated, the use of antibiotics, while necessary at times, can lead to physical problems such as immune dysfunction and susceptibility to infections, as the use of certain antibiotics increases the risk of these infections. There is really no one simple one-size-fits all solution.

Dr. Christine M. Kaczmar, "The Digestion Doctor," practices in Shelby Township, MI, and is the author of Gut Check: How the Broken Medical Model Is Creating More Sickness.

For more information, or to arrange a consultation to evaluate your digestive needs, visit Dr. Christine’s website, WorkWithDrChristine.com, and get your gut back on track today. 

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