Antibiotic Awareness

With our fast paced society nobody has time to be sick. We’ve got to be at 100% as soon as possible. Cold? Sore throat? Your first thought is probably, “I need to get a prescription for an antibiotic.” But before visiting the doctor, you may want to consider how antibiotics can negatively affect the body. 

To understand why antibiotics are not always the answer, it is important to understand how antibiotics work. There are two major types of germs that cause sickness: bacteria and viruses. These germs interact with the body in different pathways and result in an illness. 

Viruses are not living. They cannot exist on their own, and are only harmful after they have invaded other living cells. The body’s immune system can fight off most viruses before they cause illness. Then there are some viruses, colds for example, that just need time to run their course. It is very important to know that antibiotics simple have no power over viruses. 

Bacteria on the other hand are living organisms, they are everywhere, including the gut. In some cases bacteria can be harmful and invade the human body and cause illness. This is when antibiotics are used to fight the growth and reproduction of harmful bacteria. However, it is important to note that many bacterial infections can get better without antibiotics. For example, most sinus and ear infections. 

Antibiotics work by killing bacteria in the body; that is all bacteria, bad or good. They can’t differentiate between the healthy and bad. Due to the general killing nature of antibiotics, repetitive use deprives our gut bacteria of diversity. Diversity of gut bacteria is the backbone of not only healthy digestion but numerous other factors in the body as well. When antibiotic use is necessary you should try to consume them with a probiotic supplement or probiotic containing food such as kefir yogurt. On top of that, it is important to take antibiotics responsibly. It is very tempting as soon as you are feeling better to stop taking your antibiotic, but the full treatment may be necessary to avoid a relapse.

The overuse of antibiotics, especially when they are taken for inappropriate treatment such as with viruses, promotes antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance happens when a specific strain of bacteria survives an antibiotic prescription, and it is passed on and multiplied. Up until recently, the introduction of new antibiotics outpaced the development of antibiotic resistance. However, recently the pace of medication resistance has increased to a whopping 2 million infections resulted from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 

To often we are taking antibiotics for unnecessary or inappropriate use only for us to harm our natural bacteria. Common viral infections where we find ourself using an antibiotic prescription include:

  • Cold 
  • Flu (influenza)
  • Bronchitis
  • Most coughs
  • Some sinus infections
  • Stomach flu

Now of course, antibiotics really do save lives. When a patient needs antibiotics the benefits usually outweigh the risk. However, when antibiotics are not needed the side effects could cause harm. Next time when you are calling that prescription in, talk with your doctor a bit more.


Getting Your Sleep

You know sleep is important. You’ve experienced the refreshed feeling after a good night’s sleep and the fatigued one after a bad one. However, there is so much more than just how simply alert or tired we are when we wake up.

To understand why sleep is so important, you need to understand everything your body does while working the night shift. During sleep, damaged cells are healed, the immune system is boosted, the body recovers physically and mentally from the day’s activities, and the heart and cardiovascular system begin to recharge for the next day.  

During sleep there are two main phases, REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement). Both phases have different functions. REM takes up about 20-25% of our sleep while NREM occupies 75-80%. REM is the phase where dreaming will occur, and it is essential for our minds to process and consolidate memories and stress. It is also thought to be vital for learning, stimulating, and developing new information and skills. NREM, on the other hand, is when the body repairs and regenerates tissues, bones and muscles are built, and the immune system is strengthened. As we age our bodies receive less NREM sleep.  

Given these phases, and the roles they play in the body, we know sleep is vital for more than just physical health. Often times people aren’t aware of the risks of sleep deficiency. Even with limited or poor quality sleep, they may still think they can function well. However, after several nights of losing sleep, even if it’s just a loss of 1-2 hours a night, the ability to function is as if you haven’t slept at all for a day or two.

For physical health, sleep is essential for the healing and repair of heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiencies are linked to increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. With sleep deficiencies the risk of obesity is significantly increased in both children and adults as well.The reason why sleep has such a high correlation with obesity has a lot to do with the hormones it affects. When rested, your body maintains a healthy balance of hormones involved in your hunger and appetite. However, when tired your level of ghrelin hormone (hunger hormone) goes up while your leptin hormone (feeling full hormone) goes significantly down, even if did eat your normal amount of food.

Sleep affects your body’s reaction to insulin as well. Insulin is the hormone that controls your blood sugar levels, and through this it increases your blood sugar levels. The outcome of this is no different than the same reaction of overeating and lack of exercise. On top of this, risk of diabetes is significantly increased too.

As for mental health, there is a strong correlation between individuals battling mental health issues, such as depression, and poor sleep quality and sleep disorders. There is an estimated 90% of individuals battling depression that have complained about their personal sleep quality.

Socially, sleep quality plays a role as well. One study found that those with lack of sleep had a reduced ability to recognize expressions of anger and happiness. This could definitely be in an issue in terms of relationships. It is also believed that poor sleep affects the ability to recognize integral social cues and process emotional information.

The last association I will discuss is sleep and the immune system. Your body relies on sleep for a strong healthy immune system. Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which your immune system responds. For example, if you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble fighting the most common infections such as a simple cold. Even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function. This is the reason after a busy week you may become “run down.”

Melatonin is the hormone involved in sleep. Taking a melatonin supplement from Pure Encapsulations may be beneficial to you if you are having poor sleep quality. Here is one form