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Antibiotic resistance a ‘global crisis’

Antibiotic resistance has been receiving a lot of attention in the media recently. England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, Professor Davies is quoted in the media as saying: “Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at a rate that is both alarming and irreversible – similar to global warming.” Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organisation, has also warned of a “global crisis in antibiotics”.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Taking antibiotics unnecessarily can lead to a quicker resistance
Taking antibiotics unnecessarily can lead to a quicker resistance

Antibiotic resistance is quite simply a product of natural selection, or evolution. Bacteria, like any living organism, will occasionally mutate at random. If a particular mutation enables the bacteria to survive an ‘attack’ of antibiotics, then the mutated resistant bacteria will continue to live and multiply.

Several studies have shown that antibiotic usage greatly hastens the development of these resistant bacteria. Other contributing factors include incorrect diagnosis, unnecessary prescriptions (for example, when antibiotics are prescribed for a non-bacterial viral infection) and the improper use of antibiotics by patients (such as not completed the full course of antibiotics).

Antibiotics in the food chain

Perhaps one of the most worrying trends in antibiotic administration is the routine use of antibiotics in the food chain. Antibiotic resistance can be passed on to humans through eating animal products, after livestock are fed antibiotics to fatten them up and to help reduce illness in crowded factory conditions. These antibiotics are often given in long-term low doses, simply to encourage the animals to gain weight and to fend off bacterial infection.

Additionally, research at Minnesota University has found that vegetables can be contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, as they may have been grown with manure obtained from antibiotic-treated animals (1).

It is interesting that, way back in 1945, Alexander Fleming warned of this problem, voicing it is his speech on accepting the Nobel prize: “there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to nonlethal quantities of the drug make them resistant”.

What can we do?

It will be important moving forward to ensure that antibiotics are reserved only for when they are truly required. Choosing organic foods may well be a wiser choice. Animals raised organically should not have been exposed to antibiotics. Additionally organic fruit and vegetables marked with the Soil Association stamp tend to be grown by organic farmers with their own supply of manure, reducing the risk of bacterial contamination.

In the coming years, it is hoped that pharmaceutical companies are able to offer workable alternatives to antibiotics in light of the current crisis. The use of probiotics may offer a realistic option, especially as harmful bacteria are unable to develop resistance to probiotics – the good bacteria simply crowd them out while producing inhibitors that destroy the infection (2, 3). A recent clinical trial following 155 hospital patients found that daily supplementation with LAB4 probiotic strains alongside antibiotics significantly reduced the number of antibiotic resistant strains by more than 70% compared to the placebo group (4).

I have also had much success supporting digestive health using herbal approaches. Stool testing in clinic can identify antibiotic resistance while also testing sensitivity to herbal treatments, so that an appropriate nutritional therapy programme can be designed. For example, compounds such as those naturally present in garlic and onions, and herbs such as oregano, ginger and cloves, offer antimicrobial properties. Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern, and more research into alternatives is needed. In the meantime, both probiotic and herbal support, included as part of your everyday diet, may help boost the body’s natural defences against pathogens.

References

1. Livestock antibiotics can end up in human foods. Enewswire.com (2007). Retrieved 29/03/2013.

2. Chukeatirot E. (2003) Potential use of probiotics. Songklanakarin J. Sci. Technol. 2003 Mar-Apr;25(2):276-282.

3. Kondadacha OD et al (2011) The role of probiotics in aquaculture in nigeria: A review. Wilolud Journals. Jan;5(1):8-15.

4. Plummer et al. (2005) Effects of probiotics on the composition of the intestinal microbiota following antibiotic therapy. Int Microbial Agents 26 (1): 69–74.

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Natural Immune Support for Children

Children frequently pick up and pass on common bacterial and viral infections, often through interaction with others at school which can manifest into sore throats, colds, flu, sinusitis and more. Unfortunately large numbers of these children are prescribed antibiotics repeatedly. With the current concern over antibiotic resistance, it is natural to want to avoid having your child take antibiotics if possible.

There are a number of natural ways to reduce the risk of your children picking up illnesses. The very best insurance to help prevent you and your children getting ill is to support the immune system through diet, nutrients and lifestyle.

Here are 5 ways to boost children’s immunity naturally:

1. Wash hands but don’t be a germaphobe: Good hygiene at school and at home is important to help reduce the spread of germs. Washing hands is particularly easy and effective. However, extreme hygiene practices may have a negative effect on your child’s maturing immunity.

Strawberry's, melons and berries are all high in Vitamin C
Strawberries, melons and berries are all high in Vitamin C

2. Eat foods packed with immune-boosting nutrients: Serve nutrient-dense foods to help boost your children’s immunity. A few nutrients can be essential to supporting a balanced immune system. Vitamin C can be found not only in citrus fruits, but also in broccoli, kale, green beans, berries, cantaloupe, strawberries, melons and zinc, which supports immune cell function. Foods such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and seafood are all rich in zinc. Probiotic foods such as natural organic yogurt balance gut flora and are essential to a well functioning immune system.

3. Reduce refined carbohydrates and sugary foods: Refined carbohydrates like pasta, bread, biscuits and cakes and sugary foods like soda and candy can seriously tax the immune system. They feed bacterial growth and contribute to inflammation, which depletes and exhausts immune function.

4. Exercise: Research has shown that moderate exercise improves immune function for all ages. Turning off the TV, limiting the video games and getting the kids outdoors are great ways to boost children’s immunity naturally.

5. Try natural immune support nutrients and supplements: Bee Propolis is an immune boosting plant-based nutrient that is safe and effective for children. This resin is collected by bees, from tree and plant buds and has natural antibiotic, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Olive leaf extract and black elderberry are also full of antimicrobial nutrients and are also safe for all ages. Bee Prepared Immune Support Daily Defence combines these ingredients and other equally beneficial nutrients which support immune health. Capsules may be swallowed or broken open and put into juices, smoothies or yogurt.

A practical, delicious and child-friendly way to include a few of these recommendations into your daily routine is with an immune boosting smoothie.

Immunity Smoothie Ingredients:

  • 1 apple, cored, peeled and sliced
  • 1 orange, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 cup filtered water or organic apple juice
  • 1/2 cup natural yogurt
  • 2 tsp manuka honey
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seed butter *optional
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of fresh ginger root, peeled
  • 1 capsule Bee Prepared Daily Defence (open capsule and use the powder)

Combine all of these ingredients in a blender, serve and enjoy!

References:
1. Image courtesy of Roger Kirby.

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Raynaud’s Awareness Month

February is Raynaud’s Awareness Month, a campaign aimed at increasing understanding of this debilitating condition amongst the general public. Many sufferers of Raynaud’s are unaware that their condition has a name and do not know that there are therapies available to help.

Raynaud’s Phemomenon (RP) affects somewhere between 3-20% of the population worldwide, with women more commoly affected than men. Raynaud’s is characterised by problems with blood flow to the extremities, causing pain, tingling sensations, numbness or discomfort. These symptoms are most often present in the hands, but can also occur in the toes, ears and nose. During a Raynaud’s episode, the fingers will turn white as blood supply is interrupted. They may then turn blue before blood flow resumes, accompanied by a feeling of burning. Episodes can be triggered by emotional stress or by temperature changes.

Ginkgo Biloba may help combat Reynaud's Disease
Ginkgo has been reported to improve circulation in small blood vessels

There is currently no documented cure for Raynaud’s. However, studies suggest that some nutritional supplements may be useful in relieving symptoms.

The herb ginkgo has been reported to improve the circulation in small blood vessels and reduce pain in people with Raynaud’s disease. In a recent double blind study, Ginkgo supplementation taken over a 10-week period reduced the number of attacks experienced by Raynaud’s sufferers (1).

Essential fatty acids are also reported to be beneficial for those with Raynaud’s. Fish oil has a number of effects that may improve blood circulation. It reduces vascular reactivity and blood viscosity, suggesting that it should help improve blood flow and circulation in Raynaud’s patients. A double-blind study did in fact find that fish oil supplementation improved tolerance to cold and delayed the onset of symptoms. Other studies have found fish oil to be useful in decreasing both frequency and severity of attacks (2). Evening primrose oil has similar vascular effects to that of fish oil, and a small double blind study found it offered similar benefits in Raynaud’s (3).

A form of Vitamin B3 known as inositol hexaniacinate, reduces spasms in the arteries and improves peripheral circulation. For this reason it has been tested as a therapy for Raynaud’s and in larger doses has been found to improve circulation and reduce attacks (4,5). Larger doses of 3-4 grams, like those used in the studies, should only be taken under the supervision of a medical practitioner.

Problems with magnesium metabolism may also factor in Raynaud’s (6). Magnesium deficiency can cause blood vessels to spasm. Ensuring an optimal intake of this mineral helps blood vessels to ‘relax’ and encourages healthy blood flow. The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 300mg for men and 270mg for women, but many adults in the UK fall short. Increasing intake of green, leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and pulses can boost magnesium levels significantly.

Finally, dietary and lifestyle changes can also help to manage this condition. Smoking, which constricts blood vessels, will aggravate Raynaud’s and so giving up the cigarettes should improve symptoms immensely. Relaxation techniques and stress management are also recommended. Other helpful dietary measures include cutting down caffeine and alcohol, and reducing fatty and fried foods.

If you’d like more information on Raynaud’s you can visit the Raynaud’s & Scleroderma Association website which is dedicated to helping those affected by the condition.

References

1. Muir AH, Robb R, McLaren M, Daly F, Belch JJ (2002) The use of Ginkgo biloba in Raynaud’s disease: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Vasc. Med 7(4):265-7.

2. DiGiacomo RA et al. (1989) Fish-oil dietary supplementation in patients with Raynaud’s phenomenon: a double-blind, controlled, prospective study. Am J Med 68:158–64.

3. Belch JJ, Shaw B, O’Dowd A, et al. (1985) Evening primrose oil (Efamol) in the treatment of Raynaud’s phenomenon: a double-blind study. Thromb Haemost. 54:490-494.

4. Holti G (1979) An experimentally controlled evaluation of the effect of inositol nicotinate upon the digital blood flow in patients with Raynaud’s phenomenon. J Int Med Res 7:473–83.

5. Ring EF, Bacon PA. (1977) Quantitative thermographic assessment of inositol nicotinate therapy in Raynaud’s phenomenon. J Int Med Res. 5:217–22.

6. Leppert J, Aberg H, Levin K, et al. (1994) The concentration of magnesium in erythrocytes in female patients with primary Raynaud’s phenomenon; fluctuation with the time of year. Angiology 45:283–8.

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