Antibiotics kill off friendly bacteria

Ten million people every year reach for an antibiotics prescription, and despite repeated warnings by the Chief Medical Officer some doctors still hand them out for colds, flu and sore throats, all viruses for which they are usually ineffective. Consequently,  antibiotic resistance is growing with superbugs rife in hospitals and some serious illnesses not responding to treatment.

 
Even though people insist that some infections only respond to antibiotics, that’s not entirely true either.  Complementary therapies such as acupuncture, reflexology, herbal medicine, and homeopathy have good success rates with a wide number of ailments, enabling the body to heal itself much quicker without drugs.

 
The average child in the UK has had 10 courses of antibiotics by the age of 16, seriously upsetting the microflora in the body which may never recover if steps are taken to improve it. This also means that when babies are born they are inheriting unhealthy bacteria from their mothers’ guts. And to add even more salt to the wound, meat eaters who do not eat organic may be getting traces of antibiotics routinely fed to animals as prophylactics. The good news about this is that the European Parliament is considering banning routine antibiotics in farm animals.

Recent research published in Nature, outlined the long-term changes to beneficial bacteria in the gut when people take antibiotics, which kill the ‘healthy’ bacteria as well as the ‘hostile’.  It was claimed by Dr Blaser, chairman of the Department of Medicine at New York University,  that overuse of antibiotics was also prompting an increase in obesity, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies and asthma.

The alternative to antibiotics

• Probiotics encourage the healthy growth of microflora in the gut (see ) so anyone who has had (or is taking) antibiotics should take them routinely.(see) You can eat probiotics naturally in live yoghurt or take them in capsule form.  Read: Keeping Your Microflora in Good Shape  

 
• Prebiotics lay the right foundations for probiotics to flourish, and are prevalent in chicory, 
onions, wheat, barley, garlic, rye, oats, bananas, or can be taken in capsule form. See: Prebiotics not Probiotics

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Prebiotics – not probiotics!

Like fertiliser encourages plant growth prebiotics provide energy for probiotics and enable them to flourish in the large intestine.

The surface area of the gut or digestive tract is equivalent to a tennis court, and it contains 70 per cent of the immune system’s cells and more than 200 different species of bacteria. Consequently the health of the gut determines overall health of the body.

In healthy people the composition of flora is relatively stable but it changes over time and is particularly affected by age, diet, medication such as antibiotics, presence of infection, the status of the immune system and stress.

What are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are biochemical compounds, a class of compound sugars which are found naturally in food, particularly certain fruits, vegetables and cereals. Unlike probiotics they are not live but are molecules which reach the intestines intact and provide sustenance for beneficial bacteria.

Prebiotics are stable biochemical compounds which are unaffected by the acidic environment of the stomach. While probiotics can be destroyed by hostile bacteria, prebiotics are great survivors which pass through unaffected into the intestines. Therefore prebiotics are essential components of a healthy digestive system, which ensures a strong immune system equipped to fight infection.

They are a preferred food source of several species of beneficial bacteria and stimulate their growth, but can also bring about healthy changes in the large intestine. They stimulate certain metabolic pathways such as the production of short-chain fatty acids which are essential for the production of fuels for the cells in the gut.

Taking prebiotics makes people more regular but it also protects them against infectious diarrhoea.

Food sources of prebiotics

Prebiotics occur naturally in food and are non-digestible ingredients. They are present in:

• Chicory roots
• Jerusalem artichokes
• Garlic
• Leeks
• Bananas
• Onions
• wheat, barley, rye and oats
• Agave – the Mexican plant from which a natural sweetener is made and it is also used in making tequila!
• Whey, made from milk contains lactic acid

Prebiotics are a relatively new concept in health terms and that’s why most people haven’t heard much of them. Advertising campaigns have brought probiotics and the ‘healthy bacteria’ into the public’s awareness, but prebiotics which are fundamental to a healthy digestive system aren’t well understood yet.

• Supporting friendly bacteria
• Improving the internal environment of the intestinal tract
• Allowing good bacteria to thrive
• Supporting probiotics

A. Vogel’s (Bioforce) Molkosan Vitality is a prebiotic drink made from whey (remember the nursery rhyme!), green tea extract and maize starch. It comes as a powder and mixes with water. Available from Nutricentre – just click on the ad on the left hand side of this page.

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The Functional Doctor

Dr Georges Mouton, internationally renowned pioneer of functional medicine

Imagine going to see your GP because you’re feeling tired and they give you not only a blood test, but test your urine, saliva, stool and hair as well. This is standard practice for Dr Georges Mouton, the Belgian functional doctor, who practises at the Hale Clinic in London.

‘If you hear a noise in your car you take it to the mechanic to see what is wrong with it. You don’t wait until you are stuck in the middle of nowhere and it breaks down,’ says Dr Mouton.

‘For some reason many people do not do the same with their bodies. It is at the point where they get little complaints that they need to get some medical attention. Otherwise they wait until illness becomes chronic and they need drugs. If they went down the preventative route they would be able to prevent degenerative disease like cancer, heart disease, strokes and auto-immune diseases.’

Dr Georges Mouton is an internationally renowned functional doctor, who practises in London, Madrid and Brussels. His clients include elite athletes to whom good health is absolutely crucial to success. He aims to correct abnormalities in metabolism which could be behind a range of symptoms including feeling tired and lethargic. He looks at lifestyle, diet and supplements to help his patients get back to optimum health.

The efficacy of probiotics

He is a great believer in different strains of probiotics to deal with specific health problems, ‘Intestinal health is fundamental to immunity because the majority of the immune cells are in the gut. Not only do probiotics improve digestive health but they also maintain healthy skin, liver and immune system. They fight infection, candida, helicobacter pylori, and even C. difficile (the hospital acquired infection) and AIDs.

Mouton claims that C. diff could be wiped out of UK hospitals if probiotics were issued to all patients who weren’t in intensive care, in addition to an excellent cleaning protocol. ‘Hospitals in the Netherlands do not have these problems because they are spotless. Their white coats are washed every day and patients’ bags regularly cleaned out.’

He also believes in prescribing probiotics at the same time as prescribing antibiotics, which is common practice in Australia. However, he doesn’t favour yoghurt or sweet drinks as a source of probiotics as so many of the patients he sees are allergic to dairy products. Sweeteners such as Aspartame have their own health issues and not a good substitute for sugar.

‘While technology moves all around us at an incredibly fast pace – just look at your PC, your mobile phone – general practice has stood still. If you go to your doctor with a problem the chances are you will not only receive the same treatment that your parent was given, but also the same as your grandfather was given.’

Mouton lectures regularly about intestinal health, fatty acids, liver detoxification, endocrine imbalances and other “functional” topics throughout Europe, America and Asia. He recently spoke at the Anti-Ageing Medicine World Congress (AAMWC) in Paris.

He also trains nutritional therapists in functional medicine, and his approach includes diet and nutritional counselling, combined with supplementation of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, probiotics, trace elements, fatty acids, antioxidants and natural hormones. The treatment is mainly drug-free, although orthodox medicine is used when necessary.

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