You’ve probably been on antibiotics a few times throughout your life, whether due to a never-ending cold, the flu, or another variety of infection. Antibiotics are medications that stop microorganisms like different types of bacteria from growing within your body – and they’re usually prescribed only in short doses, for one to two weeks. However, some conditions require the use of long-term antibiotics, especially if chronic in nature. Yet continued, prolonged use of antibiotics doesn’t come without a few side effects.
One of the most common ways in which our bodies react to antibiotics over time is building up a resistance. That means that the more we take an antibiotic, the less our body and the microorganisms within react – making the medication essentially useless. One of the most serious effects of frequent antibiotic use, resistance to the medication means common infections and viruses become nearly impossible to treat and cure. As ailments become used to the antibiotics, and bacteria begin to adapt to these new chemicals, they become able to fight them off more effectively in order to take hold of your body.
Yet long-term use of antibiotics also has a negative effect on our cells. Scientists at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University recently discovered that repeated use of antibiotics causes oxidative stress in our cells, which can ultimately damage them. Oxidative stress occurs when our bodies’ cells begin producing oxygen molecules that hurt membranes and enzymes within cells. Over time, oxidative stress can lead to damage in humans’ DNA, proteins, and lipids.
Additionally, the prolonged use of antibiotic medications causes the number of antioxidants in the body to decrease. In order to fight the effects of cells’ oxidative stress, antioxidants are needed – so it’s important to balance the antibiotics with an increase in foods or beverages like tea that are high in those helpful antioxidants.
Although antibiotics are a common way to cure ailments, the body can build up a resistance to them, and harm itself in the process of doing so by causing damage to the cells themselves. Together, doctors and patients can weigh the risks of continuing these medications long-term, or choosing other routes of curing the ailments.