Having a flu and a fever? Sore throat? Runny nose and cough? Ear infection? Here, take this round of antibiotics. This is an everyday occurrence in any general practitioner’s clinic. I have grown up well and healthy on this approach to illnesses. But this is not for everyone. Definitely not for eczema warriors, as antibiotics and eczema do not go well together.
Antibiotics destroy the gut
The gut is home to hundreds of trillions of microorganisms, all doing their jobs in the various departments of food digestion, metabolism, immune system regulation, sending messages to the brain through neurotransmitters, etc. The gut is such a critical part of our existence that the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates said “all disease begins in the gut”.
Gut and brain connection
Our mental state and gut health are so intricately linked that the gut is sometimes called the second brain. The 100 million neurons lining our gut make up a major part of our nervous system, constantly sending messages to the brain. That explains emotional eating, and why stressful situations trigger us to binge on comfort foods, in a bid to feel better.
Gut and immune system connection
On top of being connected to the brain, the gut also hosts 70 to 80 percent of our immune system. Our intestinal lining, although within the body, is actually an important barrier between the outside world of foods (and other stuff entering the mouth, like pathogens, chemical toxins, allergens, food additives, etc.) and the real interior of our body. Substances we ingest have to pass through the intestinal wall before it can enter our bloodstream and circulate throughout the body.
Immune cells in the gut protect the mucous membrane which line the small intestines. This helps to keep out pathogens and other undesirable substances from crossing the gut barrier into the bloodstream. These immune cells are supported by the friendly gut bacteria, so they actually keep our immune system in great shape. More information on gut and immune system can be found here: www.health24.com.
In comes antibiotics
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, and have saved countless lives from deadly diseases. They do their job by inhibiting bacteria from building cell walls, or disrupting certain metabolic processes or protein synthesis. Unfortunately, the good bacteria are wiped out too.
A necessary evil
When our body is under bacterial attack that the immune system cannot handle, antibiotics are summoned to eradicate the entire battlefield, so we start with a clean slate. It gives the body a break from the uncomfortable symptoms caused by the infection, so it has a chance to heal and rebuild itself. With the probiotics found in foods, and also some supplementation, a healthy body should be able to rehost the good bacteria over time, with no prominent ill effects.
Overuse of antibiotic
The problem comes with the over prescription and overuse of antibiotic. Sometimes it is to err on the safe side, because nobody is going to order lab tests for the common cold and flu, so “here, take your antibiotic, I don’t care whether it’s viral or bacterial”. It also satisfies the patient that something concrete is being done at the doctor’s visit, rather than “it’s most likely a virus, there’s nothing I can do, just make sure you get enough rest, use your grandmother’s remedies, and you will get well in no time”.
I even had a doctor say this to me: “I’m pretty sure this is a viral infection. But still take this round of antibiotic to protect yourself from any possibility of secondary infection by bacteria.”
This is how far gone we are.
When it’s a viral infection, there’s no enemy for the antibiotics to kill. It’s like bulldozing the land, not realising the enemies are flying in the sky this time, and all you have wiped out are your own loyal soldiers who were trying to take down those fighter jets. More harm than good. Simple as that.
Antibiotics and eczema are a mismatch
For many eczema warriors, gut lining and immune system were already compromised to start with, for various reasons. In fact, unnecessary and overuse of antibiotics could have been the trigger of eczema for some people. That is why antibiotics and eczema are a great mismatch.
As antibiotics wipe out the good bacteria, an imbalance of the microbial population in the gut can lead to a leaky gut. The tight junctions between the intestinal cells lose their functions, and undesirable substances that are usually kept at bay are now allowed to pass through. With all these pathogens, toxins, partially digested foods, foreign proteins, etc. floating around in the blood stream, it is no wonder the body reacts by trying to fight off these substances, resulting in a chronic inflammation which is so typical of many eczema sufferers.
Coupled with sluggish or overworked elimination organs like liver and kidneys, which is also a typical trait of eczema warriors, the unwanted substances get purged out through the skin since it is the body’s largest organ, and non-vital, so yeah sure, that can be overworked in order to protect the vital organs from fatigue. Hence, the intense itch that results, the frustrating itch that you can’t get at because it feels bone-deep.
That is how abuse of antibiotics can aggravate any underlying gut condition that plagues people with eczema.
Nature provides the antibiotics you need
Throw out those prescription antibiotics. Nature provides the best antibiotics you will ever need, because they come with eyes! Nature’s antibiotics can mostly tell the good guys from the bad… and our top pick is… GARLIC!
Allicin, a compound derived from garlic when you chop or crush it up, is responsible for its antimicrobial and antioxidant effects, among many other benefits. Not only does it deal with your bacterial infection, its antioxidants boost up your immunity, helping you to ward off any other germs lurking around.
Eat your garlic raw
We include raw garlic in our daily diet, by crushing some cloves and setting it aside for 15 minutes to allow the allicin to form. Then we add them to the soup after turning off the fire, or just before serving. This takes off the edge of some of the spiciness, while still retaining its maximum healing properties by not cooking it.
Garlic bath for infected skin
If your open wounds from incessant scratching get infected, one effective way to get rid of the infection is by using garlic bath, or garlic water to apply onto the infected areas. I have detailed the method in this post: how to treat infected eczema. Do note that raw garlic can sting on open wounds, so you may want to start off more diluted, or do a patch test on a small area to get a sensing of how it feels.
Other nature’s antibiotics
Other foods that have strong antibacterial properties include:
If you really must…
There are some bad infections that will not go away without the help of prescription antibiotics. It’s not worth risking your life just to hang on to the path of natural healing. Infections that get out of hand can be deadly. So take it if you have to, just make sure you load up on probiotics so as to repopulate your gut with the good microorganisms afterward.
Probiotics for damage control
A main source of good bacteria for our gut comes from fermented foods. They include:
- miso (provided you can take soy)
There are mixed views on when to introduce probiotics when taking antibiotics. My personal view is that whatever probiotics you feed into the gut will be killed by the antibiotics, so wouldn’t it all go to waste? I’d rather finish up the course of antibiotics before loading up on these probiotic-rich foods, to repopulate the intestinal lining with good bacteria and give the immune system the best chance to recuperate.
Antibiotics are a great advancement in medicine that mankind should be proud of. It has served us well by saving countless lives from deadly infections. But its overuse has led to health issues, especially in eczema warriors who are predisposed to gut issues. Be informed and responsible in your usage of antibiotics and eczema symptoms will improve because you are taking care of those good loyal soldiers that guard the great wall of intestinal cells.