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Studies Confirm Long-Term Antibiotic Use is Harmful to Your Health

Many people do not realize that the use – and overuse -- of antibiotics in our society could be causing more harm than good to their overall health. As a matter of fact, a recent study shows that repeated or prolonged use of antibiotic treatments can have a negative impact on the beneficial bacteria that your body needs to function properly.

Why Do You Need Bacteria?
The beneficial bacteria we are talking about are found in the gut. These bacteria play a vital role in the way your body handles immune responses, metabolism and human nutrition.

Researchers did a study focusing on one of the most prescribed antibiotics on the market, ciprofloxacin (also known as Cipro). This antibiotic is used for a number of bacteria-causing conditions such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) and respiratory infections.

The Study
Dr. David Relman of Stanford University, along with his colleagues, performed a study where they cataloged bacteria that were found in the feces of study volunteers that had been treated with ciprofloxacin and they identified more then 5000 different bacteria species and strains. The researchers discovered that while the volunteers were under treatment, the overall abundance of the bacterial species and strains that were found were impacted by the ciprofloxacin.

The effects that were found varied on an individual basis, assumingly due to dietary intake. There were two volunteers though that had a significant decrease in bacteria diversity. The study went further to show that it took almost four weeks for the bacteria to return to a normal level once the antibiotic treatment was completed.

It’s important to note that dietary intake plays an important role in how antibiotics impact the good bacteria in the gut. It is always recommended when you are taking antibiotics that you fortify your diet with foods which promote healthy bacteria such as yogurt and some fermented cheeses. These foods contain probiotics which help to maintain the balance of the good and bad bacteria in the stomach.

Maintaining this balance is essential to us feeling healthy and being able to ward of illness. Other then antibiotics, there are a few other factors that affect the balance in the stomach. These factors include diet, age, gender, medications, surgery and certain diseases. Each of these factors can be exasperated by the use of antibiotics.

The study also noted that during treatment none of the volunteers experienced any intestinal-related problems even though there was significant fluctuation of the good bacteria. Again, this could be due entirely to the types of foods the volunteers consumed during treatment.

The findings of the study were published online in the PLos Biology journal. The results demonstrate that there is some resiliency amongst the gut bacteria. The study also indicates that there could very well be long term implications of repeated use of antibiotics. Keep in mind that while this study only looked at how ciprofloxacin impacted the gut, there are other antibiotics that are commonly used that may have a harsher impact.

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