One of the most important milestones in modern history is the discovery of penicillin in 1928. That began the era of antibiotics and millions of people have been saved from infections since then. Until early 20th century, infection was the leading cause of death. Although bacteria were first discovered about 250 years earlier, we did not know how to kill them (inside the body) until the discovery of penicillin. Since then thousands of natural and synthetic antibiotics have been discovered or manufactured.
While the availability of antibiotics gave hope to overcoming the hundreds of different infectious diseases, and plagues and epidemics become less frequent, another problem arose that dashed our hope for an infection-free world. This is the problem of antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them, allowing them to continue to grow and multiply.
Antibiotics usually refer to anti-bacterial drugs. There are also anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-parasite drugs. Collectively they are called antimicrobials and all can also suffer from resistance.
Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria are difficult, and sometimes impossible to treat. In most cases, antibiotic-resistant infections require extended treatment with several different antibiotics, which may be costly. Often the patients have to be hospitalized for intensive treatment, and sometimes the patients die.
Antibiotic resistance does not mean the body has become resistant to the antibiotics; it is the bacteria that have become resistant to the antibiotics designed to kill them.
Antibiotic resistance was first noted in 1940 (against penicillin), and since then the problem has become a major issue in healthcare. The rate of the development of antibiotic resistance has outpaced that of the development of new antibiotics such that health experts are really worried. Even now we do not have antibiotics to fight many bacterial infections.
The main causes of antibiotic resistance are overuse and incorrect use of antibiotics. Bacteria grow and multiply rapidly, which means they can mutate to adapt to survival challenges quickly, and the bacteria that become resistant against the antibiotics will then grow unhindered. If antibiotics are prescribed when they are actually not necessary, or when they are taken only for several days instead of one whole week (to make sure all the bacteria are killed), then the likelihood of the bacteria becoming antibiotic-resistant is high. Unfortunately, the abuse, overuse and incorrect use of antibiotics have been so rampant throughout the world for many decades. Even animal-feed is loaded with antibiotics, and many farmed animals are injected with antibiotics.
The other problem with antibiotics is that they also kill the good bacteria (probiotics) that keep our gut and the whole body healthy. Probiotics are our main defence against the bad bacteria. Frequent use of antibiotics will reduce their population and weaken our immune system. The presence of sufficient probiotics will help prevent intestinal infections, and also contribute to better overall health.
The overuse of antibiotics is not only a threat to your health, but also a threat to the survival of the human race. Superbugs (bacteria that are resistant to all known antibiotics) have already killed many people (about 25,000 yearly in USA) and this problem is getting worse.
Most of our infections are transient and are caused by viruses which our body can quickly fight off in a few days, especially with adequate rest, plenty of fluids and a nutritious diet. Our immune system is equipped with the ability to recognize germs and fight them directly with special immune cells or with antibodies.
So the next time you have a cough-and-cold, do not take antibiotics unless the problem gets worse despite adequate rest, fluids and nutritious food. Even then, get yourself checked by a doctor or health professional first. It still does not mean that you have a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics. The best is to do a bacterial culture of the throat swab or phlegm (if any) to confirm if it is indeed a bacterial infection. Unfortunately, many patients demand to have antibiotics early and unwise doctors just oblige.
Your natural defence against infections can be greatly enhanced by leading a healthy lifestyle, which includes adequate sleep, managing stress, not smoking, not drinking alcohol, adequate exercise and eating a nutrient-dense plant-based diet which provides plenty of immune-boosting nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.
You can boost your immunity even further by taking herbs or their extracts in supplement form. While there are many herbs that can enhance the immune system, lingzhi mushroom (ganoderma lucidum) is especially famous for boosting our immunity.
Lingzhi has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2000 years, and much knowledge and experience have been gathered. It is traditionally used to replenish qi (life force) to enhance health and vitality, improve circulation, improve immunity, improve memory and promote longevity. It is also used to relieve coughs and cold, asthma, insomnia, dizziness and many other health problems.
Now scientific research has confirmed many of these claims, and revealed that it contains many powerful active ingredients that can explain the wide variety of health benefits.
The active components include germanium, polysaccharides, alkaloids and triterpenes, which make lingzhi able to improve the immune system, fight cancer, increase good cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol), improve cardiovascular health, improve liver detoxification and have anti-ageing effects (slows down ageing and promotes longevity). Studies also show lingzhi may improve blood sugar control, and has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral properties. It may also protect the liver and kidneys against damage and disease.
Our immune system is made up of specialized cells, each empowered to fight different types of invaders (viruses, bacteria, other microbes) and cancer cells. Studies have shown that lingzhi can enhance the proliferation, maturation and function of these immune cells.
If you enhance your immunity by taking lingzhi supplements, you need not worry about side effects as it is not a drug. Instead, you will get so many other benefits as listed above.
You can expect to get coughs and colds and other infections less often. And if you still get frequent infections despite taking it regularly, then most probably the dose is not enough for your requirements.
So instead of taking antibiotics when you have infections, why not enhance your immunity and overall health by taking immune-boosting herbal supplements like lingzhi? But you need to start taking it when you are still healthy, and continue long-term. If you only start during an infection episode, you may require higher doses.