Living Well Blog: Saratoga's Holistic Health Forum

The Problem with Killing Bugs


The problem with antibiotic resistance and the inefficiency of treatment of "superbugs" continues to make headlines in various medical journals. One solution has been a rush to create stronger antibiotics to these mighty pathogens that are resistant to last year's most powerful antibiotic. However, the resultant solutions seem to only strengthen these powerful critters morphing power. For example Mr. MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus ) becomes Mr. VRSA (vancomycin-resistant staphylococcus aureus).

What happens when our most powerful weapons against these invaders fail? The creation of fear amongst the physicians and their patients diagnosed with these bugs hoping they won't escape the local site of invasion and create systemic damage. What to do?

First, remove the obstacle that is making more and more of these super-mighty-bug-critters. For example, various studies have demonstrated that one reason for antibiotic resistance is from an overuse of them. Various studies have shown that "bacterial symptoms" were actually due to different types of pathogens, such as a virus or fungus. Secondly, let's stop eating excessive antibiotics in conventionally raised farm animals. More exposure means more opportunity for these bugs to learn to morph.

See, the body's balance of microbiotia is in a delicate balance. Medicine is getting confused with treating the overgrowth of beneficial bacteria, already present in the body with specific functions, and killing off a pathogenic bacteria that enters an immune compromised system, in the same manner.

In one of the latest articles on this subject from my February 2012 issue of Holistic Primary Care, Dr. Ivker describes how the reflux approach to reach for antibiotics isn't working:

Despite the conclusions of the important studies cited above, physicians continue to reflexively prescribe antibiotics to treat the problem. In the vast majority of cases these patients do NOT have a bacterial infection that would respond to an antibiotic. It's nearly always caused by either a virus (typically a cold virus) or some other allergic or environmental trigger causing severe inflammation of the mucous membrane lining the nose and sinuses.

Overuse Drives Overgrowth

Rather than treating the underlying causes of sinusitis, antibiotics instead dramatically reduce the population of beneficial bacteria living in a homeostatic relationship with candida (yeast/fungus) in the respiratory and GI tract. This reduction, coupled with the fact that the good bacteria are the "natural predators" of the candida (primary food source for the probiotics), then creates a significant imbalance and a candida overgrowth. When candida is allowed to overgrow, it begins to release toxins that can have a devastating effect on the surrounding tissue, causing severe inflammation to the lining of the respiratory and GI tracts, as well as throughout the body, e.g. inflammation of joints and muscles, multiple food sensitivities and environmental allergies, extreme fatigue, weakening of the immune system.

The body has a unique ability to restore its own balance. As Integrative doctors, there are many tools to aid this process. Therefore, why not support the body's ability to protect itself, rather than giving something that may only kill off symptoms or create more problems that may be even more harmful than the initial invasion?

In a recent study with 166 adults randomized to the antibiotic amoxicillin vs. placebo, there was no improvement of symptoms at day 3 of treatment, but at day 7 the amoxicillin group did have some symptom improvement. However, there was no secondary symptomatic difference seen between the two groups after 10 days. Maybe the body just needed time?

Furthermore, antibiotics aren't without side effects. According to Dr. Ivker:

According to a 2008 article in Clinical Infectious Diseases, more than 142,000 people are rushed to the emergency room each year from adverse reactions to antibiotics, and an estimated 70,000 of those cases may be a result of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions (Shenab N, et al. Clin Infect Dis. 2008;47(6):735-43). Over 100,000 Americans die every year from prescription drugs, many of which are antibiotics. In fact, medical treatment is the third leading cause of death (250,000 deaths per year) in the US, behind heart disease and cancer. There are over 13 million antibiotics prescribed each year in the US for sinusitis.

My conclusion:
It's important to know when to use the heavy hitting weapons of antibiotics and when to teach the body to be its own superhero. For example, when the infection is too high for the body to recover, antibiotics should be employed. However, if the issue is about balancing the terrain, there are many other options. The point is, give the correct treatment for the correct bug AS the obstacles to health are removed and the immune system is modulated by various other methods.

For more information on how to support the body verses fighting it, visit my website at


Garbutt, J, Banister, C, Spitznagel, J, Piccrillo, J. Amoxicillin for Acute Rhinosinusitis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA. 2012;307(7):685-692. doi: 10.1001/jama.2012.138

Ivker, R. Amoxicillin No Better Than Placebo for Sinusitis. Holistic Primary Care. February 2012.

Mayo Clinic. MRSA.

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About Dr. Sarah Lobisco

Dr. LoBisco has been in holistic healthcare for over 10 years. She became interested in holistic medicine when she was able to heal two herniated discs through nutrition, yoga, supplementation, and chiropractic. She has mentored with holistic practices throughout New York, Vermont, and Connecticut. In addition to her Naturopathic and Functional Medical training, Dr. LoBisco has extensive training in a variety of healing modalities, including therapeutic essential oils, nutraceuticals, herbs, whole food supplements, nutritional medicine, and mind-body therapies. She is a graduate of the accredited, four year post-graduate program in Naturopathic Medicine at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. This program includes clinical rotations and a demanding scientific curriculum in integrating conventional and natural medicine. Dr. LoBisco holds her license from the state of Vermont.

Dr. LoBisco is a candidate for certification in Functional Medicine through the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM). Dr. LoBisco is also certified in Applied Kinesiology and holds a BA in psychology from SUNY Geneseo. She has contributed as an item writer for the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE)and has several articles that have been published in the Naturopathic Doctor News and Review Digest (NDNR) and the Townsend Letter, both physician- based journals. Dr. LoBisco is also a hired speaker on integrative medical topics for medical professionals.

Dr. LoBisco currently incorporates her training in holistic medical practices and conventional medicine through writing, researching, private practice, and through her independent contracting work for companies regarding supplements, nutraceuticals, essential oils, and medical foods. She has a small, private wellness consultation practice through telephone and Skype. Dr. LoBisco also enjoys continuing to educate and empower her readers through her blogs and social media. Her upcoming book, BreakFree Medicine, is set to release within the next year. Please inquire here for more specific information.