Thoughts on health, happiness and sustainability

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Do you really need antibiotics?

There has been a lot of media attention recently about the over use of antibiotics and the risk that it presents to the health of our society.  Many people are concerned that taking too many antibiotics is not good for our health and there is a large body of evidence growing to suggest that over use of antibiotics is responsible for all manner of problems, from the development of super bugs to increased risk of certain cancers, secondary infections and birth defects.  Not to mention the standard side effects that can result from taking antibiotics.

Whatever your opinion about antibiotics might be, in most cases people feel that it isn’t something that is in their control.  If we are ill and the doctor says that we need to take antibiotics then we generally do what we are told.

We do have a choice though.  While it is easy to assume that the doctor always knows best, I would argue that the doctor often doesn’t know best.  Not through any lack of good intention, but simply because they are not trained in anything but pharmaceutical treatments and because they don’t know your body and unique circumstances.  You know yourself, your situations and your options better than anyone else.

Doctors are great at giving you a diagnosis and providing you with the pharmaceutical treatment, but if you want a broader range of options then they are unlikely to give it to you.

So what are the options if you want to avoid antibiotics?

Option 1: Stay healthy

It might sound like I am stating the obvious, but it can’t be emphasised enough.  If you maintain a really strong and healthy immune system, then you will rarely, if ever, develop an illness that becomes serious enough to warrant the use of antibiotics.  Eat a nutrient dense diet, live a low stress lifestyle and get plenty of good quality rest and exercise, and you’ll minimise the chances of ever needing antibiotics.

Option 2: Help your body heal

If you failed to keep yourself healthy enough to avoid falling ill, all is not lost.  As soon as you start feeling unwell, you can stop to assess what factors might be leading to the problem and quickly take action to eliminate negative factors and strengthen your immune system.  The human body is an incredible self healing machine and it can nearly always heal itself when given the right conditions to thrive.  Even if you get to the point of visiting the doctor and receive an antibiotic prescription (or any other sort of prescription), it doesn’t mean that you have to start taking it immediately.

You know how you feel, so you are in a position to make a judgement about whether you could wait an while and pursue a natural approach before resorting to the drugs.  If you feel that things are getting bad, then you have the drugs at the ready as a backup plan.

Can you actually cure infections naturally?

Despite my reservations about pharmaceuticals, if I have a serious infection then I am generally pretty good at following doctors orders, but I recently had the opportunity to test a more natural. approach.

I developed an infection of my wisdom teeth and when the pain elevated to the point that it was piercing the centre of my brain, I figured that it was about time I went to see the dentist.  She didn’t spend long looking at me, and quickly identified the infection and told me that in the vast majority if cases, this type of infection is caused by stress.  “Have you been stressed and tired recently?” she asked.  I sheepishly admitted that I had.  “Well, there’s your answer then!”

So I went home with my packet of antibiotics, but the message that my own stress levels had caused it made me realise that if I addressed the root cause, my body might well be able to fix the problem itself without any help from big pharma.

I decided that time was limited as I couldn’t tolerate the pain for long, so I tried to attack the infection with every natural solution that I could think of.  This included:

  • Increasing the nutrient density of my food
  • Avoiding chewing (as chewing on the infected gums made the problem worse)
  • High dose probiotics
  • Grounding myself daily
  • Swilling salt water (as recommended by the dentist)
  • Chewing on shavings of raw garlic
  • Reducing my stress (following my own stress relief tips!)

The first two points were easy to achieve for a few days by consuming a liquid diet of smoothies, vegetable soups and fresh juices.  The pain reduced a little each day but at the end of the third day my wife gave me an ultimatum (my Mum put her up to it!).  If it wasn’t a lot better the next morning, then she would make me take the antibiotics.

This is where the raw garlic came in.  I needed to hit that infection with a punch.  Garlic has been used throughout history for its powerful antibacterial properties, so I put it to the test.  I was surprised by just how much the raw garlic burned the inside of my mouth (I am talking proper burns that lasted for a few days), but yet the pain from my infection massively reduced within the hour.  And it stayed down.  In total I only used a single garlic clove cut into tiny shavings, but it seemed that its reputation was well earned.

So I was nearly better when I hit a road block.  I had to go away from home including a 4am start (when I was already exhausted) and work long hours, eating food that was largely our of my control.  Progress plateaued for a couple of days and then the pain started to get worse.  By the end of that week I was starting to panic that my experiment had failed and that I was going to need the antibiotics after all.

Lucky for me, I got back home and resumed my recuperation program and almost immediately the pain started fading away.  A few days later and it was completely healed.

Is it safe to experiment with natural alternatives?

Some might argue that I took a risky approach and that I got lucky.  I was told by several people that I was putting myself in great danger and that the infection would spread to other parts of my body if it wasn’t treated quickly with antibiotics.  But the fact is that my approach worked, and it worked without any of the negative health implications of antibiotics.

The fact is that I kept a very close eye on how I was feeling and how things were developing throughout each day.  I had the drugs ready with me at all times so that I could start using them if I felt that things were on a slippery slope.

This is just one experience and every situation is unique, but I think there is great value in having your mind open to the fact that there are options beyond the antibiotics prescribed by doctors and that you are in the unique position of being able to judge whether you can afford to experiment with the alternatives.

It is your body, and you have the power to choose how you manage your health.

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