Image by tworedwellies
It’s been a rough winter. A lot of people have been sick. And truthfully, when people get sick, a lot of them call the doctor and get antibiotics. Luckily, there are lots of safe and effective natural antibiotic alternatives.
First, let’s look at the some of the reasons why we might not want to use antibiotics, and when they may not even be necessary.
Dangers of Antibiotics
You may or may not need antibiotics for minor infections. Ear infections and sinus infections often resolve on their own in just a few days — no antibiotics required. Overuse and misuse of antibiotics contributes heavily to antibiotic resistant “super bacteria” which can cause serious illness, and which few, if any, current drugs can fight.
Antibiotic use statistics are pretty scary, too:
- 70% of all antibiotics sold are used in livestock (another reason to buy pastured, sustainable meat!)
- In 1954, only 2 million pounds of antibiotics were produced per year. In 2000, it was 54 million.
- From 1997 to 2005, the percent of antibiotics used for MRSA cases went from 7% to 28% (a four-fold increase!)
- Children have the highest antibiotic use. In fact, when parents expect antibiotics, they are prescribed 62% of the time, vs. only 7% when they are not expected.
- Most ear infections (the most common reason for antibiotic use in children) are viral, not bacterial, and antibiotics have no effect. Even bacterial ear infections don’t really require antibiotics.
- Up to 80% of the antibiotics prescribed for upper respiratory infection are unnecessary
We also need to worry about gut flora. Antibiotics, especially those most used by the public, are typically broad spectrum. That means they’re not at all specific about which bacteria they kill. They will kill any bacteria that is in your body, including the good bacteria in your gut. When this bacteria is killed, it reduces your immunity and opens you up to future infections. It also allows bad bacteria to grow uncontrolled and make you sick long-term, because the good bacteria isn’t there to keep the proper balance and battle it back. Scientists are still studying this issue, and many — even mainstream doctors — recommend that you take a probiotic supplement along with a course of antibiotics to try to minimize this effect. It is uncertain how effective these supplements are at this time.
Antibiotics also come with side effects, which can include:
- Stomach upset
- Skin rash
- Diaper rash (in children)
There are a number of other side effects, too, depending on the particular antibiotic prescribed.
Natural Antibiotic Alternatives
Given all this data, it is important to understand that antibiotics are not to be taken lightly. They should be used in very careful situations when “waiting it out” or other treatment methods have failed. They should never be used for viral illnesses. Antibiotic use is very serious, and although many people take them because they “just want to feel better,” they are not always warranted, and serious problems can result.
But, this doesn’t mean you have to do nothing when you are feeling poorly. There are many excellent, natural antibiotic alternatives to antibiotics that are safe, that bacteria will not become resistant to, and which have no side effects. These should be your first line of defense; you should call a doctor and consider a prescription only if these remedies fail.
Here are our top 9 natural antibiotic alternatives:
- Coconut oil
- Oregano essential oil
- Grapefruit seed extract
- Collodial silver
- High dose vitamin D
- High dose vitamin C
- High dose vitamin A
- Homeopathy (various remedies, depending on constitution)
The first five remedies are all antibacterial, and antiviral too. They can help to clear up many different infections. The first two are the safest — garlic and coconut oil can be used on anyone, even babies. They can all be applied to the feet (anything applied to the feet is quickly absorbed into the body), taken orally (some under the direction of a naturopathic doctor), or applied topically. Remedies 3 – 5 may require a naturopathic doctor if you are uncertain.
- Fresh-crushed garlic may be mixed with coconut oil and applied to the feet. Put thick socks on and go to sleep.
- Put fresh-crushed garlic in a capsule and swallow it.
- Top food with fresh-crushed garlic and simply eat it.
- Cook in coconut oil, or add it to a smoothie. Make candy out of it to eat a large amount at once (without the ‘gross’ factor of eating it straight).
- Put 1 – 4 drops of oregano essential oil into a capsule and swallow it. This may knock an infection out overnight. Talk to a naturopathic doctor if uncertain about dosing.
- Mix oregano oil and coconut oil and apply to the feet.
- Mix grapefruit seed oil into water and drink (check package or ask a doctor for dosing amounts).
- Collodial silver can be taken internally, too. Check package or ask doctor for dosing.
How to boost the immune system in general:
- Vitamin D can be taken up to 10,000 IU per day, or up to 50,000 IU per day for 3 days under the direction of a doctor.
- Vitamin C can be taken 1g per hour until “bowel tolerance” (loose stools). Since it is water soluble, overdose is not possible. Too much will cause minor stomach cramps and diarrhea which will resolve quickly.
- Cod liver oil is a great source of vit D and vit A, and extra doses can help get over illness.
- Immune stimulating tincture, a wonderful combination of herbs to help boost your overall immune system and combat the winter nasties
In addition to these, it’s a good idea to give probiotics (especially from food), homemade stock, plenty of water, herbal tea, etc. Rest is great too.
Symptoms can be managed with various other things, like the neti pot, ginger tea, hot/cold compresses, and so on.
What are your favorite natural remedies?
**This post has been entered in Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!**