You may have heard the saying “an ounce of cure is worth a pound of prevention” and while this will always remain the underlying driver of naturopathic philosophy, sometimes we need to bend the rules a bit, particularly if you’ve picked up a bug of some description!
How the Immune System Works
Our immune system is incredibly clever!
It’s always on the lookout for bacteria, viruses and other bugs! Ideally, a naturopath will work to build your health and immune function so it has the capacity to fight off infections before they make you sick.
In some instances though, the bug can take over, drain your reserves leaving you coughing, spluttering and feeling less a bit below par. The following visual provides a brief overview of how our immune system works.
Naturopathic Medicine : Treat now as well as prevent for later
If you notice you are getting sick, herbal medicine or nutrients work beautifully to allow your body to regain balance and kick the infection! They work differently to conventional antibiotics, but when administered under the right circumstances and the guidance of a qualified naturopath, they can be just as effective for:
- Cold or flus
- Head colds
- Skin infections
- Gastro or Tummy bugs
Natural Medicine & Antibiotics: What’s the difference?
Antibiotics work directly on the bacteria that are responsible for making you sick. Many antibiotics target the sites of growth and replication on the bug themselves so the infection can’t keep spreading. Herbal medicine and nutrients on the other hand, work in 2 ways – they also target the bacteria directly to stop them multiplying, but they also stimulate your immune system to lift defences and build and work harder to eliminate the infection. The other benefit of herbal medicine is that many herbs have a cross over action, demonstrating actions that are anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal.
Over-using antibiotics, antibiotic-resistance and the impact on health
While the development of antibiotics as a medication has literally saved millions of lives worldwide, their over-consumption and over-prescription has led to the development of a much bigger problem.
The impact of antibiotics on gut and digestive function
Our digestive tract is home to over 1 trillion bacteria! This means that the number of bugs we have living in our digestive tract outnumbers the ‘human cells’ in our body by a factor of 10 to 1! We are learning more and more about the importance of these bugs every day and the role that they have on our health and wellbeing.
The balance between these bugs and the chemicals they secrete is essential for optimal digestion, immune function, nutrient absorption and waste removal/elimination. When you take antibiotics, as well as killing off the infection, they also kill off most of these good bacteria. Current research has shown that taking just one course of antibiotics can impact the balance of your gut for up to 18 months!!
Conditions that have been linked to or show signs of imbalance within the gut bacteria include:
- Digestive Problems (Eg: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Bloating, Refulx, GORD, constipation, diarrhoea)
- Allergic conditions (Eg: Asthma, eczema, hayfever, allergies)
- Lowered immunity and/or frequent colds and flus
- Metabolic Disturbances
- Nutrient deficiencies
The development of super bugs
This is where bacteria like Staphyloccoccus aureus (more commonly known as ‘Staph’), Escherichica coli (E. coli – the one most often associated with ‘Gastro’) and Streptococcus pneumonia (or ‘Strep’ that is responsible for infections like pneumonia, sinusitis, rhinitis (stuffy nose) and conjunctivitis (amongst others) outsmart the drugs that have been created to kill them. Over time, these bugs have morphed into stronger versions of themselves, rendering the antibiotics useless.
The World Health Organisation has classified antibiotic resistance as one of the biggest threats to human health today. If you take antibiotics unnecessarily (when you have a viral infection (or the common cold, for example), for extended periods of time or sporadically ‘when you feel you are coming down with something’, you’re at increased risk of contracting antibiotic resistant infections or developing antibiotic resistance.
Naturopaths use a combination of herbal medicines and nutrients that have not only been shown to be effective against antibiotic resistant bacteria, but also boost immune function so that further reinfection down the track is less likely.
The choice to use antibiotics or herbal medicine is a decision that you should make in conjunction with your practitioner and/or doctor based on your prior case history, the sickness you have and the severity of your symptoms when you seek treatment. Both modes of care have their place and there are instances and conditions where both can be used effectively. You should consult your naturopath when making this decision.
To learn more about how naturopathy can assist your immune function, get in touch today.