Stanford Immune Study
In what I would call a “landmark study”, researchers at Stanford University have discovered that the destruction of the human gut microbiome by antibiotics reduces the competence and function of our immune systems. People who received the flu vaccine after recently being on antibiotics did not mount a proper immune response to the vaccine. Read more on the study here.
Integrative physicians and practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine have been saying this for years. Antibiotics have an overall impact on the immune system by destroying helpful bacteria in the gut and they cannot be taken with impunity. So often I see patients in my practice who had been completely healthy until they took an antibiotic for a “sinus infection” or “bronchitis” and then they just got sicker and sicker. I have always believed this to be the result of destruction of the gut microbiome. Now there is evidence to substantiate that belief.
The take home message is not that antibiotics should never be used, but that they should be used appropriately. As an example, antibiotics should not be taken at the first sign of a cold to prevent a sinus infection. You will more likely create one by taking them. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) does not recommend antibiotics for most sinus infections. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC do not recommend antibiotics for ear infections in children over 2 years old who do not have a fever over 102 and are not in excruciating pain. Symptomatic relief is often all that is necessary, such as ibuprofen to reduce pain or the discomfort of a fever. I also recommend herbal and nutritional supplements to support immune function to help the body fight these infections. The bottom line: If your doctor offers you an antibiotic, ask the question, “Do I really need this?”