Agent Orange Takes On A Whole New Meaning

Once, you needed a prescription in order to get an antibiotic such as streptomycin or oxytetracycline. Nowadays, though, all you need to do is go grab a Florida orange from your nearest grocery store. 480,000 acres of Floridian citrus trees receive 650,000 pounds(325 tons) of these formerly prescription-only antibiotics each year. The dangers of this situation should be clear.

The impetus for the use of these two antibiotics came in the from of a bacterial disease which infected citrus trees, causing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allow emergency use on the citrus farms, an emergency exemption which has since become a long term authorization. While this yearly hurricane’s- worth of antibiotics might seem necessary to preserve the oranges and other fruits of Florida farmers, it has a massive detrimental effect upon the humans who eat those oranges.

Over the past few decades, as antibiotics have been introduced into healthcare, bacteria have developed increasingly effective ways of surviving them.  The bacteria mutate; they create ways to pump out, break down, or bypass the antibiotics. Those who survive go on the share the genetic safety mechanisms iwth other bacteria, spreading their ability to resist till the antibiotic is virtually useless. Because of this, we face ever more resistant infections and are forced to use harsher and harsher drugs to kill the bacteria. Sometimes, even the most expensive, most brutal antibiotics fail, and the patient succumbs to the illness.

While I do enjoy my oranges, we have to resist this onward march of antibiotic resistance in two ways:

First, we must speak up when our government chooses to expose our nation to greater risks with such magnitudes of environmental release of antibiotics.  

Second, choose therapies for infections wisely.  When you encounter your next sinus infection, bronchitis, or other non-life-threatening infection, ask your functional medicine doctor if a natural remedy will be enough or if your condition is more likely viral (thus not affected by antibiotics).  While life threatening infections still deserve the “antibiotic hammer”, most other infections do not or can be treated with natural remedies instead.

Either way, I hope we can keep our “Agent Oranges” as good vehicles for daily doses of vitamin C rather than carriers for resistance- breeding antibiotics and their resulting super- bugs.  To help our patients and our community liver healthier more abundant lives,we need to use both approaches in full force but only with wisdom and discretion.

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