There are many reasons to avoid taking antibiotics.
For one, they harm your gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome, the environment in your gut where billions of healthy bacteria thrive.
Second, the overuse of antibiotics has led to the creation of antibiotic-resistant “super bugs.”
And now, scientists have learned that antibiotics may even damage your DNA…if you take them long enough.
Here’s how this disturbing chain of events unfolds…
It all links to your cells’ energy factories
Some of the oldest life on Earth were in the form of single-cell bacteria that could breathe oxygen.
Over time, larger cells “engulfed” single-cell bacteria and used them as breathing apparatuses. (Think of the single-cell bacteria as little scuba tanks attached to the larger host cells’ bodies.) The bacteria also helped the host cells produce energy and stay hydrated.
Eventually, the host cells’ genetic coding changed to incorporate the bacteria permanently into its DNA.
Human mitochondria (your cells’ energy factories) are actually the direct descendants of these ancient, single-celled bacteria, which could live and breathe on their own.
They function in much the same way as the bacteria did millions of years ago, producing energy and hydration for human cells.
So, it makes sense that antibiotics can harm mitochondria…since these ancient structures originated from bacteria!
Antibiotics harm our cell’s energy centers
To study the effect of antibiotics on mitochondria, researchers with Boston University treated human cells and lab mice with three different types of common antibiotics. They quickly noticed that antibiotic treatment ignited a shocking chain of events…
First, the antibiotics disrupted normal mitochondrial function in the human tissues, depriving cells of energy and hydration.
And when something damages your mitochondria, it doesn’t just affect your energy. It actually speeds aging.
In fact, mitochondrial damage plays a role in a wide array of common diseases, including chronic fatigue syndrome, dementia, Type II diabetes, liver disease, Parkinson’s, and heart disease.
Second, the antibiotics caused a “surge” in the production of unstable molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS can damage human cells. And build-up of ROS can damage your DNA and cause cell death.
Third, after antibiotic exposure, the cells began to exhibit oxidative stress. Your body experiences oxidative stress when there’s an imbalance between unstable free radicals, like ROS, and antioxidants. Over time, oxidative stress can also damage DNA and lead to bigger problems…like cancer.
Houston, we have a MAJOR problem
In an interview following the study, Ronald DePinho, a researcher with the prestigious University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said the average person who takes one, short-term course of antibiotics has very little to worry about. Instead, chronic, long-term courses are the real problem.
But I think Ronald may have his head in the sand.
In this study, the researchers used “clinical levels” of antibiotics for specific periods of time. And even that limited amount caused a surge in ROS and oxidative stress, which can lead to DNA damage.
Plus, if one treatment of common antibiotics at clinical levels can cause those problems…what could a long course of antibiotics (or multiple courses) cause? It’s certainly something that shouldn’t just be dismissed without further study!
Antioxidants lessen the harm caused by antibiotics
For the last part of the study’s research, Boston University researchers treated the human cells and mice with an antioxidant called N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC).
It turns out, NAC helped alleviate the harmful effects of antibiotics. And it didn’t interfere with the antibiotics’ ability to treat the bacterial infection. The researchers even recommended taking NAC as a supplement to lessen the harm of antibiotics.
I was surprised—and impressed—by this suggestion.
The bottom line?
Avoid taking antibiotics whenever you can. They should only be used as a last resort for treatment. Instead, focus on prevention and building a strong, balanced immune system.
You can even try THIS “medieval remedy,” which I describe in the July 2015 issue of my monthly Insiders’ Cures newsletter. Not yet a subscriber? Become one today to gain immediate access to this featured report!