Antibiotics can be lifesaving in the case of serious infections; however, despite the benefits of these medications, there are negative effects of antibiotics. It is now very common for people to receive a course of antibiotics when they are feeling sick. In fact, receiving antibiotics has become so common that in 2010 there were 258 million prescriptions written for antibiotics in the United States. With so many prescriptions being written, it would seem as if antibiotics were completely safe; however, there are negative effects of antibiotics that you should be aware of.
One of the more surprising negative effects of antibiotics is they increase the risk of developing obesity. Dr. Martin J. Blaser is an infectious disease specialist who has discovered that taking antibiotics early in life makes people more likely to weigh more. While this is initially shocking, when you consider the fact that industrial raised animals are given low doses of antibiotics to make them fatter, it isn’t quite as surprising. If antibiotics can make animals weigh more, why not people?
Broad spectrum antibiotics can wipe out many bacteria, including H. pylori. While H. pylori is considered a bad bacteria, it is a bacteria that used to present in almost everyone’s stomach, and it has some surprising benefits. H. pylori appears to suppress immune responses, making people 30 percent less likely to develop asthma.
H. pylori also seems to have protective qualities against acid reflux. Researchers have discovered that people without H. pylori are much more likely to develop acid reflux, because H. pylori helps regulate the amount of acid in the stomach. While H. pylori does have beneficial effects, it is important to keep in mind it has also been linked to stomach cancer. This presents a catch 22 regarding H. pylori, but it also points out that taking antibiotics can have some unintended consequences, such as acid reflux.
Early research indicates that receiving antibiotics early in life increases the risk of developing Type I Diabetes. Antibiotics kill the beneficial bacteria in the intestines, and this seems to alter the way the immune system develops. As a result, receiving antibiotics increases the chance of developing Type I Diabetes, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the pancreas. Since the pancreas is where insulin is made, people with Type 1 Diabetes cannot make insulin.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) causes chronic inflammation in the digestive tract and can be very debilitating. Danish researchers have discovered that children with IBD were 84 percent more likely to have been given antibiotics before getting IBD. By killing the good bacteria in the intestines, antibiotics appear to put people at a greater risk for developing IBD.
Diagnosis of celiac disease has quadrupled since the 1950s, in part because of increased antibiotic use. When researchers analyzed data from a Switzerland health study, they found that people who recently developed celiac disease were 40 percent more likely to have received antibiotics before their diagnosis. This discovery demonstrates an association between antibiotic use and celiac disease.
Taking antibiotics puts people at an increased risk for developing antibiotic resistant infections. One example of an antibiotic resistant infection is C. diff, which can occur when antibiotics wipe out the good bacteria in your intestines and C. diff becomes overpopulated. C. diff causes antibiotic resistant diarrhea and can be deadly. Knowing the serious risks of antibiotic resistant infections is one reason to be cautious with antibiotics.
Because antibiotics can be lifesaving, they play an important role in healthcare. However, since antibiotics do have negative health consequences, it is wise to reserve them for when they are really needed. Did you know antibiotics could have negative health consequences?
Source: Blaser, Martin J. Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics is Fueling our Modern Plagues. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2014. Print.
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