Antibiotics can treat a number of bacterial infections, from strep throats to UTIs, and chances are we've all taken them at one point or another in our lives. "Antibiotics are medications that target bacteria and either kill them or inhibit their growth," says Mia Finkelston, MD, a physician at LiveHealth Online. "They are also known as antibacterial agents and can treat, and in some cases, prevent the growth of bacteria."
What's essential when considering antibiotic use is knowing whether or not your infection is bacterial. "[Antibiotics] should be used when a person suffers from a bacterial infection," says Finkelston. "Patients should take antibiotics if their doctor or healthcare professional suggests they do so. If they forgo antibiotics, there may be greater and more serious implications down the road. Some bacterial infections may cause lifelong health problems, such as kidney disease in patients with recurring and untreated strep throat."
But she does warn that antibiotics are not a quick fix to any illness. "Patients often will not want to give their illnesses time to get better and instead opt for antibiotics because they see it as a quick cure," she says. "In reality, getting rest and using supportive medication are often the best treatments."
Since antibiotics are so divisive, many people want to find alternatives. While antibiotics are necessary—and sometimes life-saving—in certain instances, if overused, they can cause other health problems down the road. "Antibiotics kill the bad and good bacteria in your gut, which can lead to microbial imbalances and result in further health-related issues down the road," says Frank Lipman, MD, author of Be Well and founder of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center.
So if you're iffy about taking antibiotics, ask your doctor if it is absolutely necessary to take them if you're trying to fight off an infection. If not, we asked Lipman and did some research on our own to see what other alternatives there were to taking them. Scroll down to see what we found.
According to Lipman, antibiotics are often prescribed unnecessarily when the infection is actually viral and not bacterial. In these cases, he likes to use herbs such as oil of oregano, Andrographis, elderberry extract, grapefruit seed extract, and garlic. "These herbs all have anti-viral effects and do not negatively affect the balance of the good and bad bacteria in the gut," he says.
According to an article by Tori Rodriguez for The Atlantic, essential oils may be the next step scientists are taking to keep us healthy. Rodriguez writes there have been studies that cleansers with tea tree oil clear Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)—a bacteria that leads to staph infections—from the skin just as effectively as normal treatments, which are now showing some bacteria resistence, for example.
Ginger has anti-bacterial properties that are known to treat respiratory and periodontal infections. Studies have shown that it is a natural option to fighting against E. coli.
According to Nural Cokcetin and Shona Blair for CNN, manuka honey, which is honey that is derived from the nectar of manuka trees, is known to fight off wounds and skin infections. They write that it can kill communities of bacteria that are known to be resistant to antibiotics, such as the ones that cause strep throat or Golden staph infections.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.