June 07, 2018
In their hit song from 1984, Huey Lewis and the News open their lyrics with: “Oh I want a new drug, one that won’t make me sick.” Little did they know how much the use of prescribed and over the counter drugs would increase in the ensuing years. Or maybe they did. It certainly seems like they knew drugs could actually make people sick when their intended purpose is to heal and cure. Frustratingly, many of these drugs have horrible side effects.
While certain prescriptions are necessary, we need to be careful about becoming addicted or reliant on certain drugs. And we need to understand how drugs can influence the gut microbiota (also known as the microbiome). Our bodies are made up of more than 10,000 microbial species. This microbiota includes both good and bad bacteria. Probiotics are good bacteria. They are living organisms that can boost the immune system, aid digestion, and improve the absorption of food and nutrients. The more good bacteria we have, the healthier we are.
Too many drugs mess with this good bacteria. Antibiotics are the ones we know the most about, and people are beginning to realize the effects they have on our bodies. When antibiotics are given to infants, it cannot only immediately alter their gut flora, but it also can lead to the development of chronic pathologies in adults. Alterations in the microbiota can have long-lasting consequences later on in life.
A Better Design
As more and more research comes out on how the health of our gut affects so much else in our bodies and even minds, drug companies are going to have to step up and figure out ways to eliminate the adverse side effects, especially to the gut flora. This simply cannot be ignored as they design new drugs. They will have to make certain that the drugs are not only necessary to control a symptom or body function but must not harm or alter the microbiota.
We are all connected, especially within our bodies. We are learning so much more about the effect the gut has on so many different body functions. You can read about the gut-brain axis, gut-lung axis, gut-liver axis and so forth. Knowing this is key to creating products with the least side effects.
Europe seems to be at the forefront of eliminating specific harmful chemicals such as parabens, from beauty products. Companies around the world, including companies in the US, have taken up this practice. It is imperative that this effort finds its way into drugs and medicines that go straight into our bodies by pharmaceutical regulators all over the world.
Not There Yet
Kate Barlow, in her piece “The Microbiome Represents A Paradigm Shift For European Pharmaceutical Regulators” laments that there is a deafening silence from European regulators on this issue. She says they are sorely lagging behind, and that the losers in all of this will be European patients. The situation particularly confuses her, and is all the more hard to understand since Europe has been a leader in microbiome research.
They have all the information and evidence they need. So what are they waiting for? With the incredible growth in both size and numbers of biotech companies, there really should be no excuses. Regulations are needed and must be put in place. It is far too ironic and dangerous to think that companies whose purpose seems to be healing patients would put such little focus on a patient’s actual safety.
Ignoring the fact that drugs influence the microbiome is naïve and dangerous. The studies are all there. One can hope that these drug companies will learn the importance of holistic health, and much sooner than later.
Take Your Health Into Your Own Hands
And yet, there is hope! Great probiotics such as those from Natren will revolutionize medicine. Knowing that there are high quality products out there that can counter the effects of many of these drugs have on the microbiome, should give all of us some hope and peace of mind. We still need to push the drug companies to change, especially as they grow and move forward. And hopefully they will. In the meantime, we can take our health into our own hands and make probiotics a part of our daily routine to improve the health of our microbiombe especially when taking other medications. Our wellbeing depends
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