Beyond Antibiotics: Healthier Options for Families.

Since scientists have discovered that bacteria cause many illnesses, over-prescribing of antibiotics poses new problems.

Overuse of antibiotics has resulted in outbreaks of penicillin-resistant infections of Haemophilus influenzae (responsible for some cases of ear infections and meningitis), mutations of the common intestinal tract bacterium E.coli, which has been implicated in a variety of ills, including bladder infections and diarrhea, and the development of more strains of gonorrhea which are resistant to penicillin.

Can the recurrent earaches suffered by your child be the result of the antibiotics prescribed to cure them? Are the antibiotics taken for upper respiratory infections causing subsequent bladder infections? Taking antibiotics to fight viral infections is usually ineffective. (They are usually effective only against bacterial infections.)

Although no one would argue that antibiotics play a critical role in treating illnesses caused by bacteria, the authors of Beyond Antibiotics aim to draw attention to the dangers of abusing antibiotics. Decades ago, Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, warned the medical profession of problems in overusing antibiotics, yet many scientists failed to heed his prophetic wisdom. Today, the authors warn, the consumer should use antibiotics sparingly to ensure their efficacy.

"There are inherent contradictory aspects associated with the use of antibiotics. They are used to aid the body in fighting infection but may actually give rise to or encourage the development of recurrent infections, thus increasing the reliance upon antibiotics. They kill bacteria, but can foster the development of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Because of this, the disease once responsive to antibiotics can no longer be treated with those same antibiotics. In addition, antibiotics are used to bridge the gap in times of insufficient immune response, yet they may undermine the immune response. Moreover, antibiotics are frequently not appropriate, yet doctors are discouraged from using alternatives," the authors warn.

If antibiotics are not the answer to the battle against disease, then what are we to do? Perhaps fortifying the immune system so that we are not so easily susceptible to illness is a preferable alternative. The theme of Beyond Antibiotics is dedicated to educating the consumer in ways to strengthen the body's own infection-fighting system to avoid the need for antibiotics of questionable safety.

A particular chapter, entitled "Why We Get Sick," discusses how nutrition, the environment, heredity, and mental health affect physical health. The authors not only make the reader aware of these important aspects, but also include ways to improve on each. Ranging from monitoring nutrients during periods of illness to using laughter as a means of "self-medication," the authors provide a comprehensive guide to improving health.

The authors suggest natural cures that one may try at home as well as advice for effectively consulting doctors about alternatives to antibiotics.

Beyond Antibiotics is informative and comprehensible. Summaries at the end of chapters present alternative choices one can make.

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