Prebiotics, probiotics and antibiotics are getting a great deal of press right now and have done increasingly over the last 5 years.
Some denounce antibiotics as pure evil, whilst others claim that probiotics can heal everything from Irritable Bowel Syndrome to Multiple Sclerosis. (to be honest there’s a lot of growing evidence for the latter)
As ever, the truth, as much as we can ever see it, seems to lie somewhere in between. The following is a user friendly guide to what you need to know about the biotics for both yourself and your dog. It is not intended as medical advice and as ever, is my very humble but much researched opinion.
In this article I am going to rely much more than normal on human evidence and anecdotes as that is where nearly all research has been undertaken.
I will then tie it in to how it affects your dogs and why its important to be aware of all of the relevant facts !
Antibiotics – a quick history
Lets start with the least popular first, Antibiotics (also sometimes called Antibacterials).
There’s lots of hoopla on the web about who really invented them but the first modern day antibiotic was accidentally discovered by Alexander Fleming when he identified Penicillin. That was 1928. They were responsible for saving countless lives in World War 2. And since.
I myself have had a couple of “run in’s” that required swift antibiotic treatment . Thank you Mr Fleming.
Interesting fact, antibiotics became the number one go to treatment for syphillis in the Armed Forces in under 2 years of introduction…..Mr Fleming, #soproud.
Armchair history tour OVER..
Whilst Antibiotics as we know them are generally pharmaceutical, ie: manufactured, there are also LOTS of natural plant based antibiotics, Honey being an example of this.
Some of my human patients come to me with severe bacterial infections and we always use plant based alternatives, which when used correctly can be stronger and more effective than their pharmaceutical equivalents. We don’t use honey btw 🙂
Antibiotics – so whats the issue?
So if antibiotics have saved so many lives, why are they criticised to the extent they are?
As far as I can see there are 4 main reasons.
Side effects – Internal & External
We are no doubt all jaded with the story of a GP visit when someone as sick as sick can be, was seen for 81 seconds , 25 seconds of which was to fill in a prescription for antibiotics.
It’s true that antibitioics have become a go to “get out of jail free card” for our overworked underpaid creaking health service. More often than not without really knowing if its a bacterial infection or not. (Antibiotics do not work for viruses but are often prescribed without knowing if the infection is bacterial or viral)
Better safe than sorry? Not so much. Read on to the next part where we discuss side effects
Internal : For the most part antibiotics work as a blunderbuss rather than a scalpel. At the least they are rarely targeted.
Antibiotics work by killing bacteria. That includes both good and bad. And given that approximately 80% of our immune system is located in our gut, a large part of which is our friendly bacteria, they get wiped out too. So yes we kill a tricky infection (hopefully) but we then leave ourselves open to more infections because we killed the bad guys at the expense of lots of the good guys.
Please note, and let me repeat, I believe antibiotics have a place, and when nothing else will cut the mustard a blunderbuss will help. Especially if you know how to manage the fallout.
External : The external side effects of antibiotics are the effects they have on the bad bacteria themselves. Every time bacteria are exposed to something that is trying to kill them, some survive and adapt. This means it speeds up their evolution to be resistant to our treatments.
We have all heard of superbugs. The only thing super about these is their ability to defeat treatment.
This is the case with plant based AND pharmaceutical approaches.
(For example : To avoid this in our clinic we use a revolving combination of herbal weapons to ensure that ALL of the bad bacteria are disposed of, none live to recount their tale or spread their survival techniques, whilst looking after the good bacteria.)
Who can honestly say that they have always completed a course of antibiotics? I NEVER used to complete a treatment. Fortunately i have not had antibiotics for 7 years now having found out they were “one of the root causes” of my serious illness. However, in days where I was regularly “fighting something off” I stopped the treatment as soon as I felt better.
Why is this dangerous? If you don’t complete the treatment then more of the bad bacteria survive to adapt for the next time.
I mistakenly thought I was protecting my good bacteria by not completing a course of treatment. When in fact I was delaying greater illness until later.
SO if you decide to use antibiotics for either you or your pet, follow the instructions!
We all know what profiteering is, exploiting market conditions and the desperate need of others for financial gain. Enough said. – Let’s deal with the positive stuff!
So we have covered antibiotics. Lets move on to prebiotics
Prebiotics are the compost on which you good bacteria grow. I guesstimate that billions of pounds each year are literally flushed down the toilet as people either take themselves or give their dogs prebiotics without the probitioic compost to grow them in. Or take an ineffective probiotic .
NEWSFLASH we are about to start stocking both Pre and Probiotics. In the next 3 weeks.
(there you go Mark – line in sand drawn – lets be accountable !)
Great examples of prebiotics for humans are soluble & insoluble fibres like the undigested parts of all those veggies you are eating. (which you are right? 🙂 ) Another great one is plantain , potato and sweet potato when they are cold. This is resistant starch. We can cover this in another article if anyone is interested.
In dogs they use vegetable matter similar to humans, from their raw meals and also the other fibres from partially digested bone and fur et al.
These are the friendly biotics with which you populate you or your dogs gut. In days gone by people were exposed to a lot more bacteria whether working in the fields or simply in environments which were much less sanitised. There is a general downturn in our bacteria levels leading to more immune system issues. Yes, antibiotics contribute to this.
There a several popular strains of probiotics. All serve a purpose. However if you want to avoid wasting your money when sourcing these it is essential to find a supplement form of probiotics that is
1) Resistant to you or your dogs digestion (as they are simply killed by stomach acid otherwise) and never make it to the gut!
2) Stable at room temperature unless you know for certain it has been previously stored consistently in the fridge
3) Contains multiple strains that are proven to be beneficial.
4) Contains sufficient numbers of each strain
Taking all of the above into account I can take an educated and experienced guess that 95% of supplements out there do not fulfil all of these criteria.
Thats a BIG statement I know but I am sticking to it. And it rankles. Why? because so many unscrupulous supplement providers are exploiting peoples health worries. I need to measure this with that there a lots of people out there trying to turn the dial!
We are currently working hard to find one for all of our dogs that ticks these boxes and uses your money wisely rather than wastefully.
When should you consider supplementing with pro & pre?
1)Almost always when you or your dog are having or have had any antibiotics.
2) Definitely if you or your dog are experiencing any auto immunity symptoms like the much discussed itchy skin, IBS, eczema, athritis, digestive issues or general lack of optimal health.
Personally, both Kismet and I are cycling our pro and prebiotics, which means taking them preventatively then having a little break before starting again. Kismet has decided to supplement her probiotics by digging up vintage bones from what was the back of the duck shed and generally eating anything covered in dirt, as most dogs should.
Antibiotics kill bacteria both good and bad but remain open minded as to when you might need to use them . As ever its great to have options and even better to not need to use them.
Prebiotics feed your probiotics.
Probiotics help populate your or your dogs intestines with healthy , bug fighting bacteria.
When to use. As needed and preferably as preventatively as possible.
Want more information? please drop me a line! Whenever possible I am more than happy to help.
For your dog related enquiries contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you want to discuss your own health then contact me via the clinic at email@example.com, put Bella & Duke in the title so I know it’s from the pack !
Wishing you well !Tags: antibiotics, probiotics