What are antibiotics?

Almost everyone in the Netherlands has taken antibiotics for one thing or another. But what do we actually know about this drug? Which diseases are antibiotics used against? And what are the side effects of antibiotics? What foods or medications do not go together with antibiotics?

Antibiotics are widely used, but against which diseases?

The most common diseases or infections are caused by viruses. Antibiotics don’t really help against that. Antibiotics are often used against serious infections, especially bacterial infections. Bacteria are in every human body, and these millions of bacteria do good work in your body. For example, they digest all the food in the intestines and keep harmful substances at bay. Sometimes these bacteria can also cause infections themselves. Consider pneumonia or bladder infection. Most infections caused by bacteria go away on their own. These are cleared by the body. If this does not work, the infection will continue to get worse and antibiotics will provide the solution. The antibiotics ensure that these bacteria are killed or slowed down, so that the body can repair itself.

What are the side effects of antibiotics?

Normally your body is completely in balance. This means the balance between the (good) bacteria and fungi in your body. When antibiotics are used in the body, good (innocent) bacteria are also lost in the battle. This disrupts the balance between the fungi and bacteria and is no longer in balance. The fungi will then gain the upper hand. This causes side effects, such as fungal infections in the mouth or vagina. On the other hand, if the balance in the intestines is disturbed, diarrhea can occur again. All these side effects are easily treatable.

Meat and antibiotics don’t always go together

Antibiotics are not only used in humans, but also in animals. For example, animals in livestock farming have been given antibiotics for years, purely as a precaution. This causes many of the bacteria in an animal to become resistant to the antibiotics. Because we eat this meat, we also ingest these resistant bacteria. In most cases, this doesn’t do much harm. As long as people continue to eat a healthy and diverse diet, this bacteria will not mutate further into an infection. If this does happen, combating it will be a lot more difficult than normal. Fortunately, the Netherlands has decided to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock farming by 50% by 2013.

Does the pill still work with antibiotics?

For years it was thought that the pill would not work if antibiotics were taken at the same time. This turns out not to be true. However, there are medications that absolutely cannot be combined with antibiotics. Some remedies for heartburn, for example. Or remedies for high cholesterol. It is always wise to consult your doctor or pharmacist before using multiple medications at the same time.

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