Antibiotics in agriculture (food)

The latest statistics about the amount of antibiotics used in the production of our food in the U.S. is staggering, to say the least.

The New England Journal of Medicine, December, 2013, just published a paper showing that 80% of all the antibiotics used in America ,and that is a lot, are used in some form of agriculture. In other words, food production. Yes, what we eat on a daily basis.

So, how much antibiotics do we use in food production? Between livestock, aquaculture (think fish), and crops we use 30,272,000 pounds per year. You read that right, over 30 million pounds per year. Now, think of the average dose a human might take for a sinus infection. That would be approximately 10 grams for an average 10 regimen, or 0.022046226 pounds. That equates to 1.39 billion doses of antibiotics in human doses. Yes, billions. Now do you see the problem brewing?

I am sure you have heard the term MRSA which stands for Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus. And we have also heard the horror stories of the poor folks inflicted with this malady. We have been warned to wash our hands and take other measures to stay safe. All good ideas. Now we have another problem bacteria, and most likely due to the over use of the antibiotics (see above).

Enter carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae. Carbapenum is a class of antibiotics that is usually thought to be the ‘drugs of last resort’. In other words, something you don’t want to have to use. The enterobacteriaceae family has such members as E. coli and Klebsiella species, all of which are normally found in our intestines and normally cause no problems.

The MRSA, and now the CRE, are what is termed antibiotic resistant bacteria. What makes them antibiotic resistant? Over use of antibiotics. It is bad enough that anytime you go to your doctor with a cold you get an antibiotic as that in itself is enough to produce some antibiotic resistant bacteria. That is nothing compared to the amount of antibiotics used in food production.

So, why do we need to use all these antibiotics? Because most of our food animals are grown in something called CAFOs, or Confined animal feeding operations (read as just totally unsanitary). If you put any animal in close confinement, and feed them foods that cause them intestinal distress, you are going to have a mess on your hands. Let you imagination go here. Due to this ‘mess’ of animal fecal matter, which contains the the enterobacteriaceae species, we have to use antibiotics to keep the poor animals from becoming sick. And when you are using over 30 million pounds of antibiotics, you can see that some of the bacteria are going to survive and be antibiotic resistant. So, when we get infected with one of these ‘Super Bugs’, we are in big trouble.

Such big trouble in fact that the CDC just issued an alert to high risk patients. Healthy people usually do not get CRE, so you want to stay as healthy as possible. We will talk about that more in a minute. High risk people are those dealing with a long term illness that are most at risk. Patients who use various medical devices, those using breathing machines, catheters for urinary problems, and those that have inter-venous catheter for long term medication delivery, and, of course, those on long term antibiotic therapy. Also those having to be housed in long term care facilities, hospitals and nursing homes. As I stated before, healthy people don’t usually become infected with these organisms.

This is a red flag to us who are healthy indicating that we must protect our health at all costs. One of the best methods of doing this is a simple blood test, the CBC, to determine if your immune system is properly functioning. If there are signs of a sluggish or low functioning immune system there are steps you can take to strengthen that immune function, but you have to know first. But I feel healthy, isn’t that enough? Unfortunately, no. We see people that, from all outward signs, look healthy, yet their immune system is a mess. These are the ones that are the most venerable because they will never see it coming until it is too late.

Remember, a simple CBC can alert us to upcoming problems. We are not talking about exotic testing, just routine lab-work and proper interpretation. This is where just being in range may not be good enough. Have your physician do this test for you at least once a year, more often if you are anywhere near the lower quartile of acceptable functioning. If you are having difficulty getting this lab-work done, call Doctor’s Nutrition and we can arrange that for you. If you do have a low functioning immune system there are many things that can help restore your immune system to proper function.

Due to the overuse of antibiotics we strongly suggest eating as much organically grown food as possible. Organically grown food does not use antibiotics in the process. We also suggest taking a strong, 20 billion CFU, probiotic on a daily basis.

At Doctor’s Nutrition our job is to empower you in your quest to Live Healthy and Be Healthy.