Non-Antibiotic Drugs Damage Gut Bacteria
A study released in Nature and reported in The Economist, conducted at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg shows much farther-ranging affects in the human micro-biome than originally thought.
The study looked at 156 anti-bacterials (144 antibiotics and 12 antiseptics) and 835 pharmaceuticals including painkillers and blood-pressure pills. Amazingly, 203 of these non-bacterial drugs harmed human gut bacteria. Even things as innocuous as acid reflux pills, antihistamines and antipsychotics.
Startled by the results, the researchers looked at seven non-antibiotic drugs’ effects on 4,000 strains of E coli. I now quote from the article:
They found many cases where proteins (and thus genes)
which protected bacteria from these seven drugs were ones
already known to make them resistant to antibiotics. In sum,
their work suggests that bacteria often use similar mechanisms
to evade all classes of drug. These can be spread by the bacterial
habit of trading DNA not only with conspecifics but also with other
members of the bacterial domain. This means the gut bacteria of
patients consuming (say) painkillers or proton-pump inhibitors
might evolve a resistance that they then passed on to a pathogen
that subsequently infected the body. That is worrisome.
Antibiotic resistance is well documented and well known, including the transfer of resistance between animals and humans. Goodness, more than half of all the antibiotics used in the U.S. are used in animals, not humans. This link has been well established for a long time and is why you should not eat meat from animals fed antibiotics, especially subtherapeutic antibiotics.
But this body of research is a whole new kettle of fish. That an antihistamine, for example, could create the same affect on a completely non-target being is new and disheartening. It shows that nature’s economy is far more complex than we can imagine. When you do something over here, it affects something over there; that’s nature’s balance sheet. But it’s so intricate we can scarcely imagine what affects what. Remember a few weeks ago I blogged about the number of decisions made within our bodies every second–billions of decisions per second.
This kind of research informs our attitudes about wellness. Getting to well is a goal above and beyond drugs. It’s about restoring a functional habitat physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Everything relates to everything and we can’t just throw a drug at something and assume that it will only strike the target. At best drugs are birdshot, not rifle bullets.
A worthy goal might be “get off of everything.”
Do you believe the average person can “get off of everything?”
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