Sunday, April 13, 2014

Missing Microbes by Martin J. Blaser, MD

I won an advanced copy of this book by Martin J. Blaser, MD from Goodreads. I have been interested in the affects that the overuse of antibiotics for a while, we've always been careful to avoid taking unnecessary medication. Most things pass on their own when the virus passes through your system.

Blaser explains so many things about antibiotics and his research that I'm not sure how to boil it down to fit in a review. He does a great job of looking at the side effects we've already seen from antibiotic usage around the world. Most of us know about drug resistance bacteria and disease, but it goes beyond that. The FDA finally announced that hand sanitizers do more harm then good, glad they caught up with the science (it took long enough).

Our immune systems and growth are being impacted as well. The use of broad spectrum antibiotics not only attacks the harmful bacteria inside our bodies but the bacteria that helps us digest various foods and regulate our immune responses. The bio-diversity of our bacteria is being negatively impacted by our obsession with cleanliness and getting rid of all "germs". We have neglected to realize that the bacteria contained within us (which actually make up most of our mass) evolved with us.

Blaser has linked the use of antibiotics with the increase in obesity, not just in the U.S. but all over the world. This includes areas where the western diets has not been adopted but the use of antibiotics has. The increase in height all around the world can be connected with the use of antibiotics as well. 80% of antibiotics sold in the US are sold to farmers specifically for the purpose of causing their livestock to grow faster and fatter while eating less. We then consume the meat containing these antibiotics. Though progress has been made on this front with 25 companies recently agreeing to reduce the sale of antibiotics to farmers.

His reasoning is sound and though the microbiome scientists haven't linked specific bacteria with obesity, allergies, asthma, etc. they have found very strong correlations. The sudden outbreak of allergies to commonly used foods strangely coincides with the dramatic increase in antibiotic use.

Ways you can help:

1. Only use antibiotics when absolutely necessary. Don't get them every time you or your child gets an ear infection (Over 80% are caused by viruses.). Check to make sure that your doctor doesn't give your newborn antibiotics automatically at birth without a specific cause. Most people are unaware of this practice in US hospitals. It's only necessary 1 in 200 cases, so 199 kids are getting unnecessary medication. Ask your dentist to not give you antibiotics unless there is an eminent risk of infection. After taking antibiotics you are more at risk to get sick from another infection, (strange that this isn't on any of the warning labels.) sometimes up to as long as 3 years later.

2. Stop using hand sanitizer. There is a layer of helpful bacteria on your skin, using hand sanitizer kills it off and increases your risk of disease and infection. Even the FDA has realized the negative impact of hand sanitizer use.

Other things that need to be done to improve the situation involve restricting the use of antibiotics on farm animals, paying pediatricians better so they can take more time with each patient to ensure a better diagnosis, better training for pediatricians, better tests for determining bacterial/viral infection status, better antibiotic development focusing on directed antibiotics, plus other methods to fight diseases.

I have barely scratched the surface of what Dr. Blaser had to say, I highly recommend this book.

Happy reading!

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