Antibiotics were once the solution, but are now the cause of many health problems that are beginning to surface. Overdosed, overprescribed and difficult to avoid, antibiotics are hiding in our food, milk, water and even produce.
Beyond robbing our bodies of a powerful line of defense needed most when we are sick, antibiotics in our food disrupts the health and vibrancy of our gut microbiome—the trillions of live bacteria living in our digestive tract—causing inflammation and making it harder for us to stay well.
Emerging science is supporting the link between an imbalanced gut microbiome and a legion of mental and physical illnesses. Gut dysbiosis—the medical term for digestive tracts with an unhealthy mix of microbes—also makes weight loss extremely difficult, because an imbalanced gut microbiome can make you feel hungrier more often and establishes a sluggish metabolism, fatigue and promotes insulin resistance and body fat accumulation.
Overdosing our children with needless antibiotics and Cesarean births has been shown to stunt immune system development and has been linked to obesity and a number of other diseases in adolescence and adulthood.
Most red meat and poultry flooding the market as burgers, cutlets, wings, and steaks in grocery aisles, restaurants, and fast food chains across the country are potentially dangerous to your health. Since the 1940’s antibiotics have been used as growth promoters while preventing infections to livestock. Unfortunately, antibiotics given to animals as growth promoters are found in detectable levels in our animal meats and are causing resistant superbugs including an epidemic of resistant strains of Clostridium difficle infections in hospitals and in the community.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year at least 2 million people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections.1
The disrupting effect these antibiotics have on us has not yet been given enough attention in the media or medicine.
Our red meat also has the potential to be adulterated beyond antibiotics. For instance, there are many countries whose practices include feeding livestock with “foods” contaminated with heavy metals and procarcinogens.
In an unprecedented move, the Obama administration is acting to encourage farmers to restrict the use of antibiotics in livestock because rampant overuse has rendered them increasingly ineffectual in the animals themselves, and made Americans vulnerable to diseases and ailments caused by bacteria that now have grown immune to medically prescribed antibiotics, sometimes with fatal results.
Food manufacturers are now reacting to this executive action plan to steward the curbing of antibiotic use in livestock by voluntary phasing out their use but what is the downstream impact on the industry? What is the economic impact to the livestock industry and to the public? Will the food be safer to consume? Will food-related poisoning change?
These and other questions are difficult to predict, but cutting back on the use of antibiotics for livestock will likely impact the shelf life of meats and inflate production costs and times.
However, restricting antibiotic use in livestock and ultimately reducing superbugs should lower the risk of food-borne illness. Why? Antibiotic-resistant infections from foodborne germs still cause about 440,000 illnesses in the United States each year and the prevalence of infections relatable to superbugs is on the rise in particular Campylobacter resistant to Ciproflaxacin and Salmonella serotype called I4,,12:i.
Seems like a no-win situation?
Despite the ubiquitous exposure to antibiotics which are comprising our gut ecological system and health, there are foods that we can eat to help stabilize our gut flora and protect overall mental and physical well-being, and prevent and mitigate the chronic diseases that afflict over 133 million Americans today and in 50% of US adults; including obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disease , mood disorders and much more.
So what is the answer?
Building a strong and biodiverse ecosystem, one that is resilient, able to withstand perturbations, and bounce back. Why is biodiversity important? There are studies showing that as we age and get exposed to antibiotics our inner ecosystem becomes less biodiverse and thus our susceptibility to disease increases.
The gut microbiome is as biodiverse as the Amazon rainforest and fibrous whole foods that fertilize this inner ecosystem enriches the health, sustainability and resilience of our inner garden of life.
Restrict you and your children’s exposure to antibiotics — use them sparingly and only when medically indicated. Consider eating meats from livestock that are raised without antibiotics. There are several commercial entities that are now offering chicken raised this way. Now that the new trade agreements may mask the country of origin of your livestock, be very particular about the country of origin of your meats. Favor known over unknown, local over distant, grass-fed over grain fed or finished.
Limit the intake of “foods” that I call ingestibles which stifle the growth of your friendly flora and turn your inner garden into a cesspool. These ingestibles include sugary drinks, sweets including artificial sweeteners that are like herbicides for your friendly bacteria, and highly processed and refined foods.
Which foods should we be eating to build up gut balance and resilience?
Choose nutrient dense prebiotic foods that that help the growth of a biodiverse gut microbiome. A few examples are apples, asparagus, artichokes, beans, garlic, leeks, root vegetables, and other foods rich in fiber. Foods that contain live bacteria also bolster the friendly gut flora. Examples of fermented foods that contain healthy friendly bacteria include; kefir, yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, kimchi, and more.
In Ayurvedic medicine the gut is the center of health and a breakdown in its functioning is the beginning of bodily disease. What tradition taught us for thousands of years is now supported by cutting-edge science.
If you want to live a vibrant life and avert disease, trust your gut instinct and become a good gut gardener today.
To Your Good Health,
1 Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) 2015 Annual Meeting: Abstract 82176. Presented June 27, 2015