- Why antibiotics make the flu season worse
- Could the answer to the coming global health crisis be up your nose?
- An easy way to improve the health of your gut
I’m not a ghoul or anything…
But I have to confess that I have been tracking this year’s flu statistics (I know, I know, my wife thinks I’m like a weird train-spotter).
The reason is, I wrote to you in the summer about some worrying outbreaks of flu in Australia, which suggested this year’s UK flu season might be bad too.
I wanted to see how much this was a true indicator of the severity of the season.
So far it has actually been moderate, with rates of GP consultations for flu below the baseline.
That said, there were still 261 people hospitalised with flu in the week ending 24th November, which is a stark reminder of how serious it can be.
No matter what the general statistics – when the flu hits, it can hit you badly.
What I didn’t know until recently is that antibiotics can make the situation worse.
Why antibiotics make you vulnerable to health problems
In June this year, scientists at the Francis Crick Institute ran a study which showed that antibiotics leave our lungs vulnerable to flu viruses, making the infection and symptoms worse.
Admittedly this was a test on mice, but the results were remarkable.
When they gave healthy mice the flu, 80% survived. But that survival rate was cut to a third when those mice were given antibiotics beforehand.
The reason? The disruption of the healthy gut bacteria leaves us vulnerable to disease.
Dr Andreas Wack, who lead the research, said: “We found that antibiotics can wipe out early flu resistance, adding further evidence that they should not be taken or prescribed lightly.”
That was not the only bad news story about antibiotics this year…
The new link between Parkinson’s and antibiotics
Last month, a study at the Helsinki University Hospital, Finland, showed that high usage of commonly oral antibiotics is linked to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Again, researchers claimed that the reason was down to their effect on the gut microbial ecosystem.
In fact, scientists now believe that many arthritic and immune-system diseases are triggered by microbiomes.
For instance, people with rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to have a bacterium known as Prevotella copri in their intestines than those without the condition.
The suspicion is that these ailments are on the rise because of widespread use of antibiotics.
Yet GPs continue to over-prescribe them, even when the illness is a virus, not bacteria, citing “patient pressure”.
Others are so pushed for time they give out antibiotics without bothering to confirm the diagnosis.
Too often, antibiotics are given to people who could solve the problem with natural remedies, bed rest and a bit of patience to let the body fight the infection.
To make matters worse, the antibiotics pumped into farm animals account for 80% of all the antibiotics used in the world.
And the repercussions go further than just arthritis, flu and Parkinson’s…
We are reaching a point of antibiotic resistance that is making simple operations potentially deadly.
According to a study in The Lancet Infectious Diseases in November last year, it was shown that there were 670,000 infections with multidrug-resistant pathogens in 2015. These caused 33,000 patient deaths in the EU alone!
Dr Keiji Fukuda, the Assistant Director-General for Health Security at the World Health Organisation says:
“The world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.”
It’s a horrible thought isn’t it? That after all our progress beating diseases we could be flung back to medieval times!
This is why there’s a bit of a race to find new antibiotics…
Could the answer be up your nose?
Usually antibiotics are discovered in soil. However, it turns out that your nose is also a hub for potentially useful bacteria.
For instance, there’s a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus, which has a strain we know as MRSA. The killer superbug. Surprisingly, this is found in the noses of 30% of the population.
But this bug has a rival known as Staphylococcus lugdunensis.
People who carry this bacterium in their nostrils are less likely to carry Staphylococcus aureus.
In other words, it’s the Luke Skywalker to MRSA’s Darth Vadar.
Back in 2016, a group of German scientists worked out the genetic code of Staphylococcus lugdunensis in order to build a new antibiotic called lugdunin.
This could be one of the weapons in the fight against MRSA and other superbugs.
However, I don’t believe the answer is going to be in finding new antibiotics but in weaning ourselves off our reliance on them.
How to rebalance your gut and encourage healthy bacteria
As much as possible you should try and avoid antibiotics, acid blockers, and anti-inflammatories. Eat a diet richer in vegetables, fish, fruit, wholegrains, nuts and olive oil. Also cut down on sugar and processed foods.
Once you’ve done that, consider these specific foods to improve the health of your gut bacteria:
- Take a spoonful of high quality (and raw as possible) Manuka honey – it has special anti-inflammatory and anti-infection properties.
- Eat more Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, leeks, and onions – they contain inulin, an insoluble fibre that ferments in your colon into healthy micro flora.
- Have a banana every day – you might know from your own experience that bananas are a good thing to eat when you have an upset stomach. They contain fructooligosaccharides, a prebiotic that promotes friendly bacteria in your digestive system.
- Eat more cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower) – they are packed with sulphurous metabolites, which are broken down by microbes to release substances that can fight harmful free radicals and reduce inflammation.
- Include natural yoghurt with live cultures in your regular diet, as well as other probiotics such as Miso soup, coconut water and sauerkraut.
One final recommendation is to try something called Propargile, a combination of clay, pollen and propolis.
In particular the pollen ingredient is rich in prebiotics, which promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms in your intestines.
Meanwhile the clay ingredient helps flush out the waste products in your digestive system while propolis works as an anti-inflammatory.
The result is a three-pronged natural remedy for stomach pain, bloating and discomfort.
You can read more about it here.
I’ll be back with more soon!