Tag Archives: pharmaceuticals

The Trouble with Antibiotics

The World Health Organization published an admonishment in 2012, called ‘The evolving threat of antimicrobial resistance – Options for action.’ It’s been largely ignored by policy-makers in the United States, but it’s time we start paying attention, because our behavior is contributing in a big way to this threat, and it will affect people all over the world, including ourselves.

A recent study by the CDC (who is also being ignored by the policy-makers, by the way) found that there is a link between use of antibiotics in livestock and antimicrobial resistance in human infections. The study also put a number on them for the first time – more than 23,000 deaths and well over 2 million antibiotic-resistant infections in one year. You can read an article on the report here.

You may have heard people talking, perhaps on the news, about how we need to scale back on our use of antibiotics for our own ailments – true, they are over-prescribed, but that tactic completely misses 70% of the antibiotics used the U.S., which go to livestock. The way animals are raised in feedlots is bad bad bad for a number of reasons, some of which have nothing to do with animal rights. It’s bad for us, too.


So how did E. coli, which grows in the guts of some animals, like cows, get on your spinach? I’ll give you a hint…

Animals raised in crowded conditions are far more likely to get sick, so they’re fed a constant low-level stream of antibiotics, some of which are also used to treat human infections. That constitutes the perfect condition for bacteria and other microbes to rapidly (in evolutionary terms) develop resistance to the antibiotics. The reason they can develop resistance so quickly is partly because they can pass on resistant genes within a generation via plasmid exchange (i.e. direct cell-to-cell contact). This is a quote from the article linked to above:

“The link between overuse of antibiotics in livestock and microbial resistance has been suspected since the 1960s, but Congress, at the behest of the pharmaceutical and livestock industries, has blocked efforts by the Food and Drug Administration to scale back their use.”

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I’d say that’s far too long a time to allow this dangerous behavior to continue, and we’re now reaching a moment in history that could have devastating effects for future generations, and even during our own lifetimes.  Here are a few of the recommendations that the WHO makes in their document:

4.1 Require obligatory prescriptions for all antimicrobials used for disease control in food animals.
4.2 In the absence of a public health safety evaluation, terminate or rapidly phase out the use of antimicrobials for growth promotion if they are also used for treatment of humans.
4.3 Create national systems to monitor antimicrobial usage in food animals.
4.4 Introduce pre-licensing safety evaluation of antimicrobials with consideration of potential resistance to human drugs.
4.5 Monitor resistance to identify emerging health problems and take timely corrective actions to protect human health.
4.6 Develop guidelines for veterinarians to reduce overuse and misuse of antimicrobials in food animals.
5.1 Make the containment of antimicrobial resistance a national priority.

(The evolving threat of antimicrobial resistance – full text pdf of the WHO document)

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If we look at the big picture, we can easily see how devastating it will be if bacteria and other microbes that infect humans and animals develop resistance to multiple antibiotics (what we call ‘superbugs’). It would set medicine back significantly – the risk of infection would be far too high, making routine surgeries and other invasive procedures, down to the simple catheter, fraught with danger.

That is not the world I want to live in. One more reason to support local, organic, and rethink our entire food system. One more reason to be vegan. One more reason to be active in voicing opposition to a corrupt Congress.


Alternatives to Big Pharma

I started writing this post a few days ago. Too bad I didn’t finish it. The timing would have been perfect. Yesterday, I read an article entitled NYC Allows Doctors to Prescribe Fruits and Veggies Instead of Pills, which ended like this,

“The largest city in the nation (and global leader itself) is taking a stand for natural health and true wellness. Here’s hoping they are only the first in many more to come.”

Heard! It’s wonderful to see strides forward in this area. Now, on to my post –

I don’t know many people who don’t keep a shelf or a plastic tub full of pharmaceuticals. Maybe you’ll get a headache and need a pain-killer, or maybe you or your child will get a cold and need to take some cold medicine. Most people assume that these things are perfectly safe since they’re approved by the FDA and sold over the counter, and most people don’t experience any extreme side effects from them. They simply help you and your family feel better, right? Maybe we should question the conventional wisdom here.

Sometimes, no matter what we do, we’re subject to viruses, bacteria, microbes, broken bones, and other things. However, a huge number of people have illnesses that are diet and lifestyle related. I’ve done a lot of research and learned a lot of things about nutrition & pharmaceuticals, and I want to share some of them.

The best medicine is prevention, and the best prevention is a healthy diet that enables the body’s natural self-defenses, rather than causing imbalances and weakness. (*Let me be clear: 1. I’m not a doctor; 2. I’m not against medical intervention; and  3. early childhood vaccinations are an important part of prevention!)

Pharmaceuticals, by and large, do not treat the causes, only the symptoms. It’s perfect if you’re a major corporation whose main interest is making a profit. If you’re a human being whose interest is general health and longevity, there are other things to consider.

Staying healthy

sugar-973899_640Stay away from sugar as much as possible. It suppresses the immune system significantly with as little as 1 tablespoon. It contributes to digestive problems by making the digestive tract acidic. It contributes to arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, tooth decay, obesity, premature aging, macular degeneration, asthma, gallstones, kidney stones, heart disease, yeast infections, appendicitis, high cholesterol, headaches. I’m going to stop there, because there are roughly 146 things to put on this list. A literature review found that “8,000 scientific papers link refined white sugar to chronic disease. “There are two more, though, that are worth mentioning separately. The sugar intake of a pregnant woman is related to the likelihood of the child developing allergies. High sugar intake can lead to depression and even schizophrenia.

Cook at home. Though we all enjoy a nice restaurant now and again, what’s problematic is eating take-out, fast food and prepared foods that you buy at the grocery store on a regular basis. If you start from scratch with fresh ingredients, you’ll avoid a host of chemicals, fillers and additives.

supermarket-949912_640Don’t be fooled by flavor and smell, either. In many processed and prepared foods, the flavor and smell aren’t natural. MSG – you likely know that MSG is bad for you, but you probably mainly associate it with Chinese restaurants, at least, if you’re in the U.S., but it’s in so many more foods. They just changed the name to disguise it. It’s often listed as “natural flavor” or “hydrolyzed yeast extract”, or it’s cheaper cousin “autolyzed yeast extract.” Did you know it’s a common ingredient in McDonald’s food?

But here’s the real problem with all these ‘extras’ in our food – it’s not individual items that are dangerous. It’s that Americans are spending a steadily increasing percentage of their food budgets on food that’s prepared in a factory, ingesting more and more of all these different chemicals and additives, and it’s causing health problems. Here is a list of the 10 worst additives to watch out for.

Foods that heal

Unless you invest your time and energy in researching these things, you might never know because no one will tell you, including your doctor. I started researching this topic years ago, and have made some surprising discoveries.

Did you know that garlic is a powerful antiviral and antibacterial? You can buy odorless garlic supplements, so you don’t have to smell bad to take advantage of it. To give just one example: cold sores, shingles, chicken pox…there are many different forms of herpes, some common and some rare, together affecting a large portion of the population. Herpes is a virus. Garlic is a very effective preventative for symptoms of this virus for those with forms that can manifest from time to time, like cold sores. This is information that could drastically improve the quality of life for a huge number of people, but what doctor tells you to take 12 garlic supplements immediately at the first sign of an outbreak, and then 6 more every few hours?

flax_chiaOmega-3 fatty acids are also powerful for prevention and healing. They’re a natural way to combat depression and anxiety, as well as clearing out bad cholesterol, lubricating joints, reducing inflammation (a key ingredient in asthma), and boosting cognitive function in people with deficits, like ADHD and Alzheimer’s sufferers. Flax and chia seeds are both sources of omega-3s.

herb-spice-906140_640Herbs and spices are more than just added flavor, though even in that respect they have an important health benefit, allowing you to use less salt, sugar and saturated fats as flavor enhancers. The 15 strongest are basil, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, clove, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme and turmeric. Read more about them here.

The point is, you can take control of your health, but you have to do your research. I highly recommend watching as many of Dr. Greger’s videos as possible. If you have an hour on your hands, start with Uprooting the leading causes of death.

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