Copy of January newsletter – antibiotic resistance and probiotics

Welcome to my January Newsletter

A very happy new year to you all. No clichés in this newsletter – no detox nonsense, no
drastic weight loss plans – this year I’m straight into what really matters for our health in 2012! I hope you all had a great Christmas, and for those that get the January “blues”, the most depressing day of the year is now behind us and the evenings will start to get lighter!
This month I’d like to talk to you about antibiotic resistance and the importance of probiotics. Antibiotics have been nothing short of life saving miracle drugs in the last one hundred years. The number of lives saved far outways any negative issues surrounding their use. I’ve used them, my family have used them and they have saved us from potentially life threatening conditions. However as you are all aware there is another side to this. Antibiotic Resistance now effects our food chain, and as more resistant infections start to appear, this does not bode well for our future health. We all need to take responsibility for what has happened and this post antibiotic era has opened the door for the search for more life giving treatments for infectious diseases.. Meanwhile… let’s look at keeping our immune systems in great shape.

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The problem with Intensive Farming

Intensive farming is big business. Demand outstrips supply, and with this comes not only growing produce out of season, but also in huge quantities. To achieve this often requires the use of growth hormones and antibiotics, which can cause many animals to be overdeveloped and deformed, in order to produce more milk or appear plumper. This has been highlighted in the wonderful work that Hugh Fernley Whittingstall has done with his Chicken Out Campaign and Jamie Oliver did with pig farming. Antibiotics have saved millions of lives and revolutionised medicine, however most are not used in this way.

In human medicine we have used them too much for minor problems and in intensive livestock production they are still primarily used to compensate for crowded and unnatural conditions on factory farms.Many scientists now acknowledge that by using antibiotics unnecessarily we encourage the rapid spread of antibiotic-resistant infections. It has long been known that overuse of antibiotics on factory farms leads to antibiotic resistance in food poisoning bacteria, like salmonella. But in the last two years, scientific evidence has also implicated intensive farming in the rise of two serious super bugs: a new strain of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in farm animals, which is spreading rapidly and transferring to humans, and a new and almost untreatable type of E.coli that is causing large numbers of deaths in the UK and elsewhere, especially among the elderly. Farm-animal MRSA is spreading on intensive farms in continental Europe. In the Netherlands it already affects 39% of pigs and almost 50% of pig farmers. In Dutch hospitals 25% of all MRSA cases are now caused by the farm animal strain, and farmers are no longer permitted in general wards without prior screening. It has been found in chickens, dairy cows and calves and in 20% of pork, 21% of chicken and 3% of beef. It has also been found in farm animals and people in Germany and Denmark, from which we import large quantities of pork
A new type of resistance in E.coli, ESBL, has been spreading globally in recent years. E.coli is a major cause of urinary-tract infections and blood poisoning. In the UK 5-10% of all urinary-tract infections caused by E.coli are now ESBLs. This type of antibiotic resistance has now been found on large numbers of farms in the UK and it is suspected that this is spreading to humans on food.

Human Health Concerns

The overuse of non-therapeutic antibiotics in poultry, beef cattle and swine production poses a serious threat to human health. Because half of these antibiotics belong to classes of drugs used in human medicine, the risk of antibiotic resistance in humans is increased. This is especially threatening for people with compromised immune systems including infants, elderly people and patients with cancer, receiving chemotherapy. Antibiotic resistance in humans is a tremendous public health threat on a worldwide scale. The World Health Organization (WHO) held a conference on this ‘crisis’ and concluded that there is sufficient evidence showing that “the major transmission pathway for resistant bacteria is from food animals to humans” and that this has led to “increased frequency of treatment failures (in some cases death) and increased severity of infections“. In their recommendations, the WHO specifically called for stricter legislation to minimise antimicrobial usage in agriculture because it is so prevalent and may pose a significant risk to human health.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be transmitted from animals to humans
in several ways:

Environment: bacteria found in the animal manure can contaminate local waterways and groundwater.

Food: people consume meat that contain antibiotic residues or have been contaminated with the resistant bacteria during slaughter.

Direct contact: farmers and farm workers may become infected by the animals and pass it on to the family and community.

If you would like to discuss a health problem in confidence or would like more information
call Kate on 01323 737814.

What about antibiotics for humans?

Both penicillin and streptomycin, two, “miracle” drugs were mass produced during World War II, and are credited with effectively treating bacterial illnesses and saving many lives. In fact, the likelihood of dying prematurely from infectious diseases in the early 19th century – before antibiotics – was as high as 40%. Since then, a diverse number of antibiotics have been produced. Most are medium and broad-spectrum antibiotics which, instead of killing the offending bacteria, kill ALL bacteria. These include tetracyclines, ciprofloxacin, bacitracin, erythromycins, penicillin, cephalosporins, and streptomycins.

One of the side effects of medium and, especially, broad-spectrum antibiotics is that they radically change the bacterial population in the intestines. Because these antibiotics kill all bacteria – even good bacteria that fight infectious bad bacteria – they may put the body at risk for superinfection.

Figures from the US: $12 billion is spent on advertising antibiotics in the U.S and over one million prescriptions are written for antibiotics annually -half of these are prescribed for common viruses. Luckily in the UK we do not have the same budget for advertising, however with the 10/15 mins allocated to a patient, GP’s are under pressure to halt symptoms. Patients tend to want a quick fix and have a tendency to stop taking antibiotics as soon as they feel better without finishing the course. Not finishing the course allows the bacteria to continue to grow and mutate into a resistant strain. So we must take responsibility and stop demanding antibiotics for viral infections and complete all courses prescribed to us.

Probiotics – what are they and how can they help?

Probiotics are friendly bacteria that live in the gut and are beneficial to health. They have a positive effect on many aspects of health, in particular helping to digest foods properly and support the immune system by populating the good bacteria that can help kill the bad   bacteria and fight infection. As mentioned above, antibiotics kill indiscriminately. They not only kill the bad bacteria that cause illness, they wipe out the good bacteria that fight off the illness-producing bacteria.

Other possible benefits

  • Help you digest your food,
  • Help to break down protein and fats.
  • Improve the absorption of folic acid, biotin, riboflavin, vitamin K and B12
  • Relieve constipation
  • Help heal a number of digestive disorders inc crohns disease, ulcerative colitis, and IBS
  • Maintain the appropriate gut ph
  • Help digestive function through enzyme activity i.e. breakdown of lactose, therefore improves milk intolerance
  • Help increase absorption of Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc
  • Help bind and excrete heavy metals
  • Help break down excess oestrogen
  • Essential for the development of the immune system
  • Help produce antibiotic substances e.g. acidophlin which inhibits e.coli and salmonella
  • Help detoxify and transform many substances like breaking down bile acids

Should you take them while taking antibiotics?

Yes its safe and often beneficial to take probiotics during and after a course of antibiotics.

Try to take them 2-3 hours away from each other though to avoid any interaction.

How many organisms do I need?

That depends on the condition you have. Most companies manufacture 20-250 billion bacteria per daily intake. This is where you will need some advice as too much might make you bloat.

Do Probiotics need to be kept in the fridge?

This depends on the manufacturers instruction, most do, some will be ok until exposed to oxygen (those will have a seal on them).


Are there any side effects when taking Probiotics?

Hardly any. Those who are sensitive to probiotics may have a little wind, bloating or loose stools on the first days but usually this will settle down. If symptoms persist you may need to reduce the dose. Read the manufacturers instructions but most do better with food rather than on an empty stomach.

A free range/organic wholefood diet with natural probiotics may help prevent certain diseases and may help support your immune system. This would be particularly important if you were going into hospital for any length of time. Good sources of natural probiotics can be found in many fermented products eg Kefir, yoghurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, tempeh and natto (fermented soya bean). If that is not possible to find, then source a good quality probiotic, with a minimum of 10 billion bacteria, in a dark glass jar and keep them in the fridge. For more detailed advice please call me on 01323 737814.

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Have a great month – see you in February.

Kate Arnold

Kate Arnold
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