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Desperate measures

On June 14th, 2019

I have a decidedly love-hate relationship with antibiotics. On the one hand, I have to admit that I owe my life to them. In 1942, when my mother was 24, her dentist unwisely extracted a tooth while she had the flu. Within days, her neck ballooned with a streptococcus infection, and she was rushed to the hospital.  My father, then her fiancé, wept helplessly at her bedside while priests filed past him after administering the last rites.

But then the wonder drug arrived. As a last resort, my mother was given penicillin, still in experimental use then. Within a day or two, the swelling that had almost obscured her face simply melted away.

My ordinarily doubting father rushed off to church and humbly knelt before the altar, convinced that he had witnessed a miracle.

Those were the days when antibiotics were being tested to combat the deadliest of bacterial infections, such as had befallen my mother. As a result of the work of Alexander Fleming and others, penicillin began to be used gingerly during the World War II against such life-threatening illnesses as septicemia, meningitis and pneumonia.

No other family of drugs has so revolutionized—indeed defined—modern medicine. Indeed, if my mother hadn’t been given that drug, she would have died, and I would never have been born.

The canker on the rose

Fast forward 40 years, and the canker was already on the rose. The drug that had been reserved for life-threatening illnesses such as lobar pneumonia began to be routinely handed out by doctors for athlete’s foot or colds—anytime a benign infection was suspected or even suspected of one day developing.

Probably no other family of drugs has been so abused. Even in the early 1980s, audits of antibiotic use concluded that in half of all cases where antibiotics were prescribed, the medical condition didn’t warrant them.

One British study of antibiotic prescriptions found that in three-quarters of cases, patients with respiratory tract infections like flu left the doctor’s office with an antibiotic prescription, even though in most instances, colds and flu are caused by viruses, which usually aren’t killed by the drug.

According to criteria for antibiotics use set at the time by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a prescription was uncalled for in eight out of 10 instances.

In my own case, repeated prescriptions of antibiotics for more trivial infections in my twenties led to the serious gut issues I suffered in my early thirties, which in turn led to the creation of our magazine What Doctors Don’t Tell You.

And I was one of the lucky ones. As the late Dr. John Mansfield once noted, “Just three or four courses can often push a patient over the precipice into chronic illness.”

This time, I owed a few years of debilitating illness to antibiotics.

Ever stronger drugs

The overuse of antibiotics has had deadly ramifications. It has caused bacteria to mutate and become antibiotic-resistant. Back when penicillin was first developed, a single moderate course was enough to cure diseases like gonorrhea or staphylococcus infections.

By the 1990s, it required two giant doses, often in combination with another antibiotic, to do the job.

Now, in most instances, penicillin doesn’t work so well. One study of children under seven found that all those who’d recently been given antibiotics had been found to carry pneumococcal-resistant bacteria.

Small wonder that as the bugs fight back, ever stronger preparations need to be developed in order to combat them, preparations with a long litany of their own life-threatening side effects. In fact, in the newest iterations of the drugs, the ‘cure’ can be more deadly than the disease, causing liver damage, life-threatening burns all over the body, brain inflammation—even sudden heart attacks.

Like Catherine Slater, who was given flucloxacillin for a cyst in her shoulder and ended up with jaundice and liver damage, which took her several months to recover from. Hundreds of thousands of people permanently harmed by certain classes of antibiotics aren’t so lucky.

But the real nub of the issue is that with so many areas of medicine, a number of natural substances work just as well as antibiotics for serious infections, but without the possibility of crippling side-effects.

Even humble oregano oil has been shown to be more powerful against bacteria than a range of antibiotics, as has simple manuka honey, which has been proven to work where drugs can’t—against both deadly lung infections and even that plague of modern hospitals, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

I’m eternally grateful to modern medicine for saving my mother’s life and making my life possible. But since that time, it’s become evident that desperate times and diseases don’t always call for desperate medical measures. In so many instances, long-standing alternative treatments reach those parts of the body that modern medicine can never hope to.

Comments

comments

8 responses to “Desperate measures”

  1. Rose says:

    Well, will eating organic meats and veggies and fruits help to avoid this antibiotic over use?
    Anyone know?

  2. Just valuing you for all you contribute!

    💗

  3. I like the balance in this blog. As much as those of us who avoid modern medicine as much as possible, there are exceptions. Finding the balance as to what works for you is good. My preventative measure from sickness is recognizing that my mind is powerful and I can breathe my way into good health with the help of meditation and yoga. I also drink a lot of water with lemon with loving intentions and avoid alcohol.

  4. Tina overton says:

    I’m constantly advising my youngest
    son (who has had several HUGE
    doses of various penicillins for
    stomach issues - that it kills off the immune system in his stomach, which then needs to be repaired with good
    gut flora - and not one of those shop bought probiotic yoghurts but a proper acidophilus compound from a herbalist. It’s like talking to a brick wall! Why do our adult offspring think Doctors are always right? When often, they’re not. 🥴
    repaired

  5. Jean Parrott says:

    How I do so agree that the world is going overboard with Intensive farming and GM crops as well as antibiotics.

  6. Jerry Levin says:

    I believe you are clear that the fault lies not with the individual physicians who prescribe these drugs but with the pharmaceutical industry which tells these doctors that the drugs are needed. The doctors are wholly unprepared to deal with the onslaught of salespeople masquerading as teachers. The real problem lies in the C-suite of these companies. Back when your mother's life was saved, the executives of these companies were dedicated to improving and saving lives. They rose up through the ranks of researchers to lead the companies. For decades now, the C-suites of these companies are filled with people whose credentials are from business schools and far too many of them are ONLY interested in the short-term profits to improve their own personal compensation.

  7. Janet says:

    when I did nursing in the 40''s it was pretty natural and effective. /sulphs were just being used and penicillin was the wonder drug after we had tried honey on bedsores, blankets on high temps.
    fresh air and lots of water but after many years I changed over/back to natural procedures as antibiotics were
    not just for emergencies. Nursing was very hands on !

  8. Rose says:

    Hi Lynne thanks for sharing. I have my own power of eight group for almost a year now we are loving it! Do recommend anything for high blood pressure I am in good shape great weight exercise 7 days a week but my blood pressure runs high. Would like to try something natural I did add walnuts every day!

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