(NaturalNews) Americans consume more pharmaceutical medications than any other people in the world. Among the most frequently prescribed medications are antibiotics. The excessive and injudicious use of antibiotics in infants, children and pregnant women is not without consequences. This nation is experiencing an unprecedented epidemic of chronic illness in children, and research indicates that antibiotic use in infants and women of childbearing years may be one of the key environmental factors contributing to the epidemics of asthma, allergies, ADHD, autism and other chronic conditions.
The Link Between Antibiotics and Chronic Illness
While antibiotics do kill harmful disease-causing bacteria, they also destroy the good bacteria that are responsible for keeping our immune systems functioning properly. As soon as babies are born, their gastrointestinal systems (guts) are rapidly populated with billions upon billions of microorganisms, massive colonies of essential "germs" necessary for every vital function in the body from digestion to neurotransmitter production. These germs also help to keep our immune systems in check - preventing allergy or autoimmunity.
The predominant species of germs that colonize a baby's gut are those that are living in the mother's gut and breast milk (if the baby is breastfed). The germs that take root in the gut during the earliest days of life may persist in a child's gut and can impact the health and wellness of that child as he or she grows into adulthood. Children with autism, asthma, celiac disease, Crohn's disease and many other chronic conditions are known to have altered and unhealthy balances of microorganisms in their guts. These imbalances were either inherited from their mothers or resulted from specific environmental exposures including antibiotic use (or other gut-altering medications), especially during infancy.
Unfortunately, many pregnant women have a condition known as gut dysbiosis, or an unfavorable imbalance in the microorganisms in the gut - an imbalance that is transferred on to their babies. Low-fiber and high sugar diets, toxin exposure and the use of medications like birth control pills, reflux medications, and antibiotics during preconception and pregnancy all can cause gut dysbiosis. What's more, it is now routine for antibiotics to be administered to laboring mothers during many hospital births in this country. Antibiotics are most commonly used perinatally to prevent infections in C-sections and in women who test positive for group B strep. Studies show that antibiotic exposure perinatally and in the early postnatal period alter the gut germs of infants. This altered balance of intestinal microorganisms can have a strong and lasting impact on the health and wellness of babies who are exposed.
Large epidemiological studies looking at long-term health outcomes of children born to mothers administered antibiotics prior to and during birth are limited. Studies looking at early neonatal antibiotic exposure have had conflicting results, often due to poor study design. A new study out of Yale University, however, concludes that antibiotic use in the first six months of an infant's life is strongly correlated with the development of asthma or allergies by the time the child is 6 years old. The researchers controlled for factors like early respiratory tract infections and still found the risk for asthma to be quite high among those receiving antibiotics.
While there are other factors that contribute to the development of chronic illnesses including genetics, immunization history, toxin exposure, and diet and nutrition, the correlation between antibiotic use and chronic illness is strong enough to merit caution in the use of antibiotics prenatally, perinatally and in newborn infants.
Beth Lambert is the author of A Compromised Generation: The Epidemic of Chronic Illness in America’s Children, and a former healthcare consultant and teacher. She is the Executive Director of Epidemic Answers, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about the epidemic of chronic illness affecting our youth, and helping parents and caregivers find healing solutions for their children. To learn more see www.epidemicanswers.org and www.acompromisedgeneration.com.