I was the kid who was always getting sick. There was hardly a time where I wasn’t running to the doctor with anything that was going around, a sure sign of a larger issue at hand. Each time I would go, it seems like the doctors would prescribe me with the “magic pill” that they thought could fix anything––an antibiotic.
I hear the same story from many others, which isn’t surprising, considering around 13 percent of all outpatient doctors visits in the U.S. end with an antibiotic prescription. However, the shocking thing is that nearly a third of these prescriptions are not needed, nor are they doing anything to help your sickness.
Antibiotics can be a powerful tool. In many cases they are completely necessary and can mean the difference between life and death. Throughout the human existence, they have saved so many lives. I just want you to be aware of the possible risks that come with taking them.
Under some circumstances they may actually be doing more harm than good––these pills that we’re swallowing with every illness that comes our way might actually be setting us up for poor health down the line, leading to a host of negative side effects and even diseases like cancer.
The antibiotic and cancer connection
It’s important to note that no studies have actually found a cause and effect relationship between antibiotic use and cancer, but a handful of studies have shown strong evidence for a possible correlation. One study done in Finland looked at more than three million individuals between the ages of 30 and 79, with no history of cancer. The results showed that the use of antibiotics was associated with an increased risk of developing endocrine, liver, kidney, pancreas, bladder and thyroid cancers, among others, particularly among the participants that had been prescribed antibiotics six or more times.
Women, in particular, are often prescribed antibiotics to help with urinary tract infections (UTIs) as well as other issues, so they run a higher risk of developing breast cancer if they’ve taken antibiotics in the past. One study found that women who took anywhere between one to twenty-five antibiotic prescriptions in their lifetime had a 1.5 times higher chance developing breast cancer than those who haven’t taken any. In a meta-analysis of nine research studies on the topic, it was found that antibiotic use was associated with a higher breast cancer risk. However, as I said before, it’s not an established cause-and-effect relationship, and there might be other factors affecting the elevated risk, such as weakened immunity––so further studies are needed.
What can you do?
The best way to prevent yourself from needing antibiotics in the first place is to keep your immunity high. Ensuring you’re getting all the proper nutrients you need and plenty of sleep are crucial to staving off sickness. See my full list of immunity essentials here.
Also, if you do need to take antibiotics, there are a few things I recommend.
Take out any of the bad, processed stuff from your diet and add in natural, whole foods. Your gut bacteria will be off after a round of antibiotics, so you want to help rebuild it with plenty of gut-healing foods. Eat prebiotic-containing foods like onion, asparagus, dandelion root and legumes. These foods will help stimulate the growth of good bacteria. You also want to increase your levels of good bacteria by taking a daily probiotic supplement. I love Mary Ruth’s liquid probiotic supplement. Focus on repairing your gut––read my post about increasing HCL to heal your gut, and how to do it here.
When needed and prescribed properly, antibiotics are critical to help you get back to proper health. But, always consult with your doctor to see if antibiotics are necessary to treat your illness, and don’t be afraid to ask about alternative treatment options.