By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Gut infections are common, and they can prohibit healing and cause a leaky gut. They must be treated to keep the body healthy, but are antibiotics the right choice for you? For some serious infections, antibiotics might be a good choice, but there are deleterious side effects.
Let’s explore why antibiotics have side effects; why antimicrobial, or natural, medicines may be a better choice. And also, what the benefits are of natural medicines.
Antibiotics Pros & Cons
Antibiotics are one of the true miracles of the twentieth century. The invention of penicillin and other antibiotics over the last 50-75 years have saved thousands if not millions of lives!
We live in a world today where antibiotics are handed out like candy, and as a result our gut biome and our health are finally paying for it. Most conventionally trained physicians are still not recommending a round of probiotics after an antibiotic treatment. In my professional opinion, this is an absolute must if antibiotics are ever to be used.
There is a phenomenon known as antibiotics resistance where we are creating superbugs from excessive antibiotic use. I saw a patient just last week who over a 10-year period was given over 100 prescriptions!
This excess antibiotic use causes rebound overgrowth in the digestive tract, essentially causing the bad or sometimes pathogenic bacteria to proliferate. As a result, it will take up most of the space in our GI tract.
If you use the garden analogy for our gut bacteria, everyone knows it takes virtually no effort for weeds to grow, yet, it takes good eating habits, stress reduction, and sometimes supplements to keep the good bacteria predominating. In the garden analogy, the healthy plants or vegetables growing.
When to take Antibiotics?
The bad bacteria in our gut can produce toxins and make it harder for us to absorb nutrients from food. In acute serious infections, antibiotics may be the right choice. With these chronic everyday situations, herbal medicines have a longer and safer track record and tend to be more selective to the bad bugs without causing as many side effects.
I was in a serious situation this last summer with a hand infection from a cat scratch and I was very close to using an antibiotic to treat the infection. I actually had the prescription in my possession, yet after 3 days of natural herbs, the infection resolved. If the infection hadn’t started resolving so soon, I would have had no hesitation to use the prescribed antibiotic.
What Are Efflux Pumps?
Bacteria or infections have a phenomenon known as efflux pumps. The antibiotic enters the cell, where it is metabolized. The efflux pumps then force the antibiotic out of the cell and into the extracellular space or back into the gut.
Imagine you’re in a canoe on a river, and the canoe has a hole in it. The canoe starts taking in water. Your natural response would be to grab a bucket and start bailing water from the canoe.
Efflux pumps are very similar to the bucket. The bucket takes the water that shouldn’t be in the canoe and bails it back into the river.
The same thing happens with the bacteria. That bacteria wants to thrive, and it knows the antibiotic isn’t good for it, so it takes the antibiotic. Just like you’d bail water from your canoe, the bacterial will shoot it’s way back into the intestinal track where it thinks it belongs.
Our goal, however, is to kill the bacteria, so we must inhibit the efflux pumps. If we inhibit the efflux pumps, the bacteria will retain the drug or the antimicrobial, which will procure its demise. If the canoe is analogous to the bacteria, we want the canoe to take on water faster. So knocking out the person with the bucket (the analogous efflux pump) is the goal.
How Can We Block the Efflux Pump?
When we create protocols to knock out these infections, how to block the efflux pump is the question that is first and foremost in mind. There is a family of herbs called berberines, and it includes the following:
• Oregon grape
These herbs have efflux-inhibiting properties. They have been used in cancer medications, infection-treatment plans, and other treatments. They actually block the function of the efflux pumps.
If you’re going to use an antibiotic, at least use it with a gram of goldenseal to block the efflux pump. This will prevent the bacteria from shooting the antibiotic back out into the extracellular space or the gut.
However, a better choice, which may give a far superior result, could be to take a combination of berberines and other herbs. This is especially effective if you are in relatively good health and making good dietary changes. This healthier lifestyle will boost the immune system, giving you a better chance of responding to the herbs.
What Are Natural Ways to Address Gut Infections?
- Local killer: Goldenseal is one local killer that will target the area of the infection.
- Systemic killer: Artemisia or wormwood are systemic killers that will get in the blood and target the whole system.
- Infection-specific killer: Herbal cocktails are created specifically to fight a certain infection. If you have a virus, we may use silver; If you have a Lyme disease coinfection, we may use neem or noni; And if you have a gut-bacteria issue, we may use oil of oregano.
There is an excellent synergistic effect when combining local and systemic killers—wormwood and Artemisia combined with goldenseal. The goldenseal makes the Artemisia stronger.
The Viscous Cycle of Infections:
Most people with a chronic unaddressed infection are kept trapped in a viscous cycle of a weakened immune system, nutrient malabsorption, and a leaky gut.
Our body needs nutrients to run its energy systems, and we derive those nutrients primarily from food. With a chronic leaky gut due to infections, we are assured to develop food allergens to even so-called healthy foods, like broccoli and beef. Thus, our diet becomes more restrictive as the root cause to many of these gut issues gets commonly missed.
With the additional stress to our digestive system, we also lose the ability to make adequate levels of enzymes and HCL. These compounds help break our food down, but they also help kill potential foreign invaders in our food, like bacteria and parasites.
As you can see, it’s common for people, over the years, to collect their gut infections like souvenirs on their mantle. The more gut bugs or infections you have, typically the longer it takes to recover.
Efflux pumps are the real problem, and that’s why a lot of antibiotics have side effects. The protocol for most antibiotics is only about 10–14 days. With a natural antimicrobial program, the protocol can be 60–90 days, allowing us to slowly break down the whole efflux pump system.
Natural programs include using specific herbs, like the goldenseal, and utilizing the synergistic effect of stacking local, systemic, and infection-specific herbs.
Use Mother Nature’s natural herbs first and foremost. Antibiotics can be beneficial when used in combination with the appropriate natural herbs, but antibiotics should be the last-resort approach.
If you have a gut infection, tough-to-remove parasite, H.pylori infection, or viral infection, these are common blocks that keep you from healing and cause a leaky gut. If you need more help to eliminate these gut infections, click here.