Do Antibiotics Actually Protect Us?

Americans are totally addicted to antibiotics. In our quest to kill anything around us that seems bothersome or threatening, we try to rid ourselves of every last germ with an arsenal of antibacterial products, we pump our livestock full of antibiotics — heck, we pump ourselves full of antibiotics.

Here's the deal: Not only is trying to eliminate most bacteria practically pointless but it can also be really counterproductive. Yes, there are lots of bad bacteria out there, and they can make us very sick. But there are also lots of good bacteria too. For example, beneficial bugs known as probiotics live in our stomachs and are integral to the healthy functioning of our immune and digestive systems. There's even some evidence that certain probiotics play a role in determining how many calories our bodies absorb from food and send to fat cells.

When you take antibiotics to wipe out the bad bacteria, you end up taking out probiotics, your best defense, at the same time. In addition, overuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance — that is, the drugs become less effective over time because the bad bugs figure out how to adapt so they can survive. The best steps we can take to keep our immune systems strong and to maintain a healthy microbial balance are to eat the kinds of foods that replenish and feed our beneficial bacteria (like organic low-fat yogurt) and to choose organic meat and dairy products from animals that have been raised without the use of antibiotics. We also need to lose the habit of taking antibiotics every time we so much as sniffle.

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