When I was growing up, doctors handed antibiotic prescriptions out like candy – yep, just like the lollipops they gave you for being good. I may not have come outta there with a lollipop every time, but I always had a bottle of pink Strawberry-Banana-flavored amoxicillin by the end of the day.
Times have changed. I’m noticing many doctors seem to be more careful about giving out antibiotic prescriptions, and they seem to be working to educate their patients that too much and too many antibiotics can lead to their becoming less and less effective, so that we have a constant need for newer, stronger antibiotics that our bodies haven’t become used to.
It seems that most of these conversations take place between pediatricians and moms of younger children. I know my sisters and sisters-in-law are all very careful about not filling antibiotic prescriptions and giving them to their children unless it’s medically necessary and appropriate (e.g. bacterial versus a viral infection). I think this is a great change, but I realized the other day that I don’t think any of my sisters or sisters-in-law realize they’re getting antibiotics in the food they’re eating and feeding their children. In fact, I think most moms (or people in general) aren’t aware of this, so let me elaborate:
Most of the non-organic chicken, beef, and pork come from CAFOs – confined animal feeding operations. If you are purchasing and consuming this type of meat you are getting a lot of strong antibiotics. These animals are given powerful antibiotics in their feed every day to help them grow faster and bigger than nature intended, and to help them try to survive the harsh, stressful, and unsanitary conditions they are raised in.
So these animals are pumped full of antibiotics to help them stay alive long enough to be slaughtered, and also to help them sustain the unnatural pace and amount of growth they experience because of the type of feed and/or growth hormones. That’s a chilling thought right there – most of the animal products most of us eat are from animals that, without extreme medical intervention, never would have lived long enough to make it onto our plates or into our milk glass. And as soon as they go from your plate and milk glass into your mouth, you get those antibiotics, too. And so do your kids, and with their smaller bodies, they end up with a higher “dose” than you did.
Antibiotics are also found in conventional (non-organically grown) fruits and vegetables, which are often fertilized with manure from the animals being given all the antibiotics, which flow through the animals’ waste.
One other reason to avoid getting extra antibiotics through your food (in addition to making us immune to the effects of the antibiotics) is that they upset the natural balance of bacteria in the body, especially the gut. The proper balance of gut flora is CRITICAL and FOUNDTIONAL for health. Having an imbalanced gut is setting the stage for all kinds of health problems from frequent yeast and other infections to autoimmune diseases to inflammatory conditions, especially those of the brain (depression, autism, anxiety, ADD, learning disabilities, dementia, etc).
I’m so proud of all the people and the parents who try so hard to protect their own and their children’s health. I’ve seen many parents try to limit the amount, frequency, and type of antibiotics their children are exposed to by taking care to give antibiotic prescriptions only when necessary. That’s something they are aware of and can control. Sadly, most of these parents are giving their children antibiotics unwittingly through their food. More awareness is need to ensure the choice still rests where it belongs – with the parents.