EXPLAINED: Antibiotic Resistance
What you should know about antibiotics
If you've struggled with bladder infections before, you've probably been prescribed antibiotics - and enjoyed the quick, effective improvement in your symptoms. Antibiotics are the most common form of treatment for bladder infections, and 20% of all antibiotic prescriptions are for UTIs. And honestly, we can't blame anyone who has suffered from the burning pain of an acute UTI for taking low-dose antibiotics even as a preventative measure (right after sex, for example). More about the causes and symptoms can be found here. Nevertheless, most of the time it goes hand in hand with an uneasy feeling. Everyone has heard the word antibiotic resistance and knows somehow that it is not good to take too much of these drugs. But how exactly can antibiotics do you more harm than good? And when do they make perfect sense? We clarify!
What are antibiotics and how do they work?
Antibiotics are medications prescribed for bacterial infections - infections caused by bacteria (like bladder infections in most cases). Even in small amounts, they inhibit the growth of bacteria and/or kill them. There are antibiotics that work against specific types of bacteria, as well as broad-spectrum antibiotics that work against several different bacteria.
The good news is that antibiotics are not always necessary. More than 25% of all UTIs go away naturally - if you drink lots of water and unsweetened tea, pee often, and support your bladder with herbal remedies. However, it's always wise to talk to a doctor about your infection and proper treatment, especially if the symptoms are still there after a few days.
Your doctor will do a urine test to both diagnose the infection and identify the bacteria responsible for it. In 85% of cases this is E. coli bacteria, but there are others. Depending on how advanced the infection is, he will prescribe you either a single dose of antibiotics in powder form or tablets for 3-10 days such as Amoxicillin, Ceftriaxone (Rocephin), Cephalexin (Keflex) or Ciprofloxacin (Cipro). To know exactly which bacteria you have, it is necessary to send your sample to a laboratory. However, the result may take a few days. Therefore, many doctors immediately prescribe an antibiotic to treat the inflammation as soon as possible. But then there is a risk that it may not be the right medicine for you and may not work optimally.
Whether antibiotics are prescribed for acute uncomplicated cystitis also depends on the severity of your symptoms, which can be partially relieved by painkillers such as ibuprofen. However, if you are suffering from severe pain, antibiotics are still the fastest way to relieve you of it. If the infection has already spread beyond the bladder, antibiotics are absolutely necessary.
What are the risks of antibiotics?
Especially in the long run, antibiotics can be really dangerous. And this for different reasons. For one thing, it's not that hard for bacteria to become resistant to them. It is in the nature of bacteria to develop mechanisms to protect them from being killed by antibiotics. As more and more bacteria build up this resistance, antibiotics can become less effective, or not effective at all - and not just for cystitis, but for other infections as well. The World Health Organization (WHO) calls antibiotic resistance one of the biggest threats to global health. Every year in Europe alone, more than 25,000 people die from serious infections caused by resistant bacteria.
New antibiotics are continually being developed, but bacteria always learn to cope quickly with the new agents.
The resistance of the E. coli bacteria, which are responsible for most bladder infections, is particularly increasing. While there are about eight different antibiotics that can be used for bladder infections, resistance to all of them is increasing. When the antibiotics for cystitis stop working, the inflammation can spread to the kidneys and become extremely dangerous.
Another disadvantage of antibiotics: They weaken your immune system. It is difficult for them to distinguish between good and bad bacteria. When the important good bacteria are also destroyed, your intestinal and vaginal flora become unbalanced - and your body is much more susceptible to disease. Even months after antibiotic treatment, it can lead to yeast infections - 22% of all women who take antibiotics for UTIs get this nasty infection. That's why it's super important to strengthen your body after antibiotic treatment. Special probiotics are very good at helping to restore balance in the gut and vagina to keep you healthy.
Other possible side effects during antibiotic treatment include diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, headaches, skin rashes, liver dysfunction. Prolonged use may also cause stomach problems.
How can I reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance?
Very important: Don't stop your antibiotic treatment sooner just because you feel better. Even if you no longer have symptoms, there may still be bacteria in your bladder that continue to multiply. To get rid of them completely, it's super important to take all your prescribed pills. Because otherwise the inflammation will quickly return, you'll need antibiotics again, and the bacteria will get used to it - you recognise the vicious cycle. Also, taking exactly the same antibiotic over and over again promotes a tolerance to it. So it's always good to be able to tell your doctor which antibiotic you last took.
The best way to avoid antibiotics as much as possible is to proactively prevent bladder infections. You can do this with various preventative measures that you can take as well as with natural remedies like our Wing Woman. Wing Woman is completely natural and with plenty of D-Mannose and anti-inflammatory plant extracts, it's a powerful way to help your body prevent bladder infections in the long run - and the complex of active ingredients is safe enough to use every day without building up resistance.