Anti Antibiotics – How To Fight Infection Naturally
Doctors and patients have started to think twice about whether antibiotics are always the best prescription for everyday infections. For too long public demand for ‘a pill for every ill’ encouraged doctors to prescribe antibiotics too often for problems that could have been treated less aggressively, or for viral infections, against which they have no effect.
As a result, a new breed of antibiotic-resistant super bugs has emerged to threaten us, and many people are plagued with recurring infections because antibiotics have weakened their resistance to disease. Children in particular are at risk of poor health. Ear infections, which are common among children, are usually treated with antibiotics, but research has shown that most get better anyway and children simply need something to relieve the pain. What’s worse, a single course of antibiotics may increase a child’s risk of future ear infections by up to six times.
Unfortunately, some childhood infections have become more widespread despite considerable advances in hygiene and medicine. Smaller families mean that children are less likely to come into contact with infections until they go to school. This, combined with the overuse of antibiotics, paints a worrying picture.
How To Stay Healthy Naturally
There are natural ways to strengthen your own immunity to disease so that you are less likely to develop the types of infection for which antibiotics are so often prescribed. Many complementary therapies can help to reduce your need for antibiotics by improving your immunity so that you stay healthy and are better able to fight infection. Acupuncture is said to help maintain health and prevent infection and is believed to help strengthen the immune system, stimulate the body’s defender cells and reduce stress levels so you are less susceptible to illness.
Both Western herbalism and Chinese herbalism, strengthens the immune system and speeds recovery from infections when they occur.
Homeopath Beth MacEoin finds homeopathy improves the health of children and adults, but especially children because they respond so readily to the gentle remedies. “Homeopathy works on two levels,” says Beth. “It’s prescribed to support an individual’s constitution and improve all the systems of the body so you get ill less frequently. When you do get ill a homeopath can prescribe an acute remedy so you recover with the minimum of complications.”
To get the most out of complementary therapies it’s best to consult a qualified practitioner, but you can help yourself to better health by making simple dietary and lifestyle changes that strengthen your natural defenses to disease.
10 Ways To Naturally Strengthen Your Defenses
- Eat a fresh wholefood diet which includes at least five portions of washed fruit and vegetables a day. These contains antioxidants, vitamins and minerals which protect the body against disease. Choose organic produce to avoid the antibiotic and pesticide residue in food.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and sugary, fried or fatty food – they have been shown to depress immune system activity and reduce levels of vital vitamins and minerals. Instead of coffee, drink green tea. It’s rich in the antioxidants and catechins which can prevent bacterial and viral infection.
- Eat a wide variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need, eating little and often for the maximum absorption.
- Add herbs and spices to foods to build immunity. For example, garlic is a natural antibiotic, cinnamon helps dispel colds and flu, ginger prevents stomach upsets, basil in antibacterial and antiparasitic, and oregano is antibacterial and antifungal.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes, 2 to 3 times a week. Moderate exercise has been shown to increase the levels of the body’s natural defender cells. Avoid excessive exercise which reduces immune activity.
- Stress depletes levels of protective vitamins and makes you more susceptible to an infection. Relaxation techniques, acupuncture, regular massage or a relaxing hobby can seriously reduce stress levels.
- Take a good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement every day, especially if you are prone to recurrent infections. The average diet is unlikely to provide the quantity and variety of nutrients needed for healthy immune function.
- Make sure that you sleep well. Having too little sleep inhibits the body’s restorative and repair mechanism and reduces your immunity to infection.
- Lose weight. Being severely overweight reduces your production of antibodies and white blood cells, which fight off bacterial infection.
- Remember that even healthy people fall ill occasionally. At the first sign of viral or bacterial infection, take one of the natural remedies listed below. They have been shown in practice and in clinical trials to help the immune system overcome infection without side effects.
Natural Home Remedies To Fight Infection
Food provides our energy so it’s vital to eat a nutritious diet. Too many skipped meals and convenience foods can cause a deficiency of vital nutrients. Even small shortages of micronutrients – vitamins and minerals needed in tiny quantities – can deplete energy and cause constant low-level tiredness. Eat well and, if you need a further boost, try these:
- Echinacea is available as tablets, capsules and as a tincture (solution), which may also include other herbs and is often the pick of the bunch. Use it for colds, flu, sore throats, bronchitis, sinusitis and viral infections of all kinds. Echinacea appears to attack viruses while at the same time encouraging the immune system to fend them off naturally. Take according to instructions, at the first sign of illness.
- Cat’s claw is taken to fight colds, flu, sinusitis, tonsillitis and laryngitis. The herb contains numerous active ingredients which have been shown to enhance immune system function and reduce the risk of all types of infection. Some experts consider it as effective as echinacea. It is available as a tea, tablets and liquid. Take one cup of tea a day as an immune enhancer, two cups to fight off a cold or flu.
- Grapefruit seed extract is an effective antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal agent, particularly merciless on stomach bugs, diarrhea, ear infections and throat infections. It is available as a liquid to be drunk, gargled or used in the ear or any other site of infection. At the first sign of infection take 10 drops two to three times a day or according to packet instructions.
- Elderberry extract prevents viruses from multiplying and has been shown to improve the symptoms of flu within 48 hours and bring about complete recovery within three days. Take according to instructions for viral infections, bronchitis and flu.
- Goldenseal is used to kill the microorganisms that cause disease and to soothe the lining of the respiratory, digestive and urinary tracts. The herb is believed to be one of the best anti-infective agents available against harmful bacteria, fungi, yeast and parasites, and is a favorite among herbalists for sore throats, coughs, colds, bacterial infections and diarrhea. Take the tincture or tablets according to instructions on the label.
- Cranberry has been shown in several clinical studies to be effective against urinary tract infections. An ingredient in cranberries makes it difficult for bacteria to stick to the lining of the bladder and urethra. Drink the juice at the first sign of infection, or take cranberry tablets according to the packet instructions.
- Tea tree oil is versatile and easy to use for fungal infections, viruses and bacteria. It has proved effective against antibiotic resistant bacteria too. Do not take it internally. Use two drops in a small bowl of cool water to clean infected wounds and spots. Gargle with two drops in a glass of warm water (then spit out the liquid) for a throat infection. Add four drops to a bowl of steaming water, cover your head with a towel and inhale deeply to alleviate colds, flu, sinus and chest infections. Use a daily foot bath with four drops of pure tea tree essential oil for athlete’s foot. Add six drops to a tepid hip bath for thrush and cystitis.
Is it always safe to take natural medicines?
There is relatively little risk involved in taking natural medicines as long as you treat them with respect. However, all medicines – natural or synthetic – can be harmful if they are used inappropriately. Always follow the guidelines for use. Do not take immune-enhancing supplements during pregnancy, when breastfeeding or if you have an auto-immune disorder. Always ask for guidance when buying natural remedies for babies or young children.
When should I treat my symptoms and when should I call my GP?
Most minor infections such as colds, flu and sore throats get better without medical intervention. But you should call your GP if you are at all worried about your or your children’s health, if symptoms do not improve after a week of self-help, or if they worsen. A doctor’s diagnosis helps to put your mind at rest and rule out more sinister causes of illness. This is especially important with children as their symptoms can escalate rapidly. Explain to your GP that you would prefer not to take antibiotics, if possible. Most doctors are happy to let you try safe alternatives when antibiotics are not absolutely necessary.
What if I have no choice but to take antibiotics?
If you really must take antibiotics (if you have a bacterial infection that could cause further damage without antibiotic treatment) then aim to reduce their ill-effects and enhance your natural defenses by taking probiotics at the same time. Antibiotics damage good and bad bacteria, leaving the body susceptible to health problems such as digestive and allergy disorders, and yeast, bladder and other infections. Probiotics can repopulate the bowel with these friendly bacteria and reduce the risk of complications.
The Expert’s Choice
Patrick Holford, founder of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition says, “Instead of taking antibiotics to wipe out infection, scientific advances suggest we should take probiotics to reinforce the body’s natural defenses. The average person is host to about 400 different types of these friendly bacteria which are our first line of defense against infection. There are many different strains of friendly bacteria. The main infection-fighting bacteria include the families of Lactobacillus and Bifidus. Many health stores sell these as supplements. And they should be stored in the fridge.”
Homeopath Beth MacEoin says, “In addition to the many homeopathic remedies, I advise patients with recurrent infections to take a high-potency garlic powder capsule and a vitamin C supplement. The active ingredients in garlic are effective against many bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. I find the powdered form easy on the digestive tract and it doesn’t repeat the way some formulations do. You can take a one-a-day, high-potency capsule, or two lower-dose tablets three times a day while infection is present and once a day as a preventative. One gram of vitamin C spread through the day has been shown to protect against bacteria and viruses. It reduces incidence, severity and even the duration of infections”.