Living without Antibiotics: Natural Remedies for Common Illnesses

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Three years ago I nearly died from a sepsis infection.  An antibiotic called Levaquin saved my life. That same antibiotic, which is in the fluoroquinolone class, poisoned me from head to toe. I am still trying to recover from the damage it did to my connective tissue, nervous and digestive systems. I thought as long as I stayed away from fluoroquinolone antibiotics I would be ok. Not so. Two years ago I had strep throat and was prescribed amoxicillin. After a few days, the antibiotic produced a meningitis-like reaction which subsequently worsened my Levaquin-induced symptoms.

As you can imagine, I am terrified of ingesting antibiotics. I am also terrified for my children, husband, family, and friends. Though they have not had an antibiotic experience like me, they could. All antibiotics disrupt our microbiome, a delicate environment of bacteria affecting our immune, nervous, digestive, and endocrine systems. Antibiotics are over-prescribed and big gun fluoroquinolone antibiotics meant to kill anthrax are used for non-life threatening infections. As such, we are creating all sorts of antibiotic-resistant germs and microbial imbalances. In response to these dilemmas, doctors may soon be forced to limit prescribing fluoroquinolones for certain infections.

I have done considerable research on and self-tested all of these natural remedies at one time or another on myself or family member. My immune system isn’t stellar and having a child in pre-k, an enormous petri dish of germs, doesn’t help. In fact, as I am writing this I have a touch of a cold. But, since traveling down this experimental road, I have not needed an antibiotic since that amoxicillin fiasco, nor has my four-year-old son.

Before I share about remedies for specific infectious ailments, remember, I am not a physician and this should not be considered medical advice. Do your own research and consult your physician before beginning any new treatment.

General Health Recommendations Instead of Antibiotics

Here are some general recommendations I found helpful for overcoming any bacterial or viral infection:

  • Remove sugar and processed foods from your diet. They feed bad bacteria and viruses. Your virus or infection will just love you for feeding them, making them stronger and more virulent.
  • Take probiotics. When I feel the first sign of a cold coming on I take a probiotic capsule. The good probiotic bacteria will work with your body’s good bacteria to fight the virus, essentially crowding it out.  Keep in mind, antibiotics kill bad bacteria and good bacteria. Antibiotics do not kill viruses. If you take an antibiotic for a virus, in my opinion, you are making the virus stronger because you are wiping out the good bacteria needed to help your immune system fight the virus.
  • Exercise a little, not a lot. When you are sick your body needs to conserve energy to fight the illness. Exercising at your usual pace during an illness puts added strain on your adrenals and immune system. You don’t have to stop exercising completely, just go lightly.
  • Rest and rest often. So many people I know catch a cold, continue to burn the midnight candle either at work or socially, end up with an infection, and are prescribed an antibiotic because they’ve dug themselves into an infectious grave they could have easily avoided by resting. Sleep. Rest some more.
  • Avoid stress, be patient and practice acceptance. Accept you have this illness, that it will take time to heal, and be kind to your body. Stress will make it worse. Practice whatever stress relieving activities work for you, ex. meditation, gentle yoga, applying essential oils, baths, relaxing in a quiet place, etc.
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol. I think this is self-explanatory.
  • Up vitamin and mineral intake, particularly vitamin C. Since your body is working over time, it is likely to be in need of extra vitamins and minerals. There are many different vitamin and mineral supplements but finding one with a high vitamin c content is crucial. You could also get IV vitamin and antioxidant cocktails. Since I no longer get a flu shot, a few IV vitamin C sessions stopped the flu in its tracks last year. See a functional medicine practitioner for these.
  • Try my cold/flu buster cocktail. I swear by this cocktail. Using organic fresh produce: juice 1 teaspoon each of ginger and turmeric root, add squeezed juice from 1/2 lemon and one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar (ACV), a few sprinkles of cayenne pepper, and blend with 8 ounces of your choice of watered down juices, ex. orange, carrot, beet, and/or apple. I drink one or two a day till I feel optimal.

Ailment-Specific Treatments

Sinus Infection/Congestion

  • Neti pot. You may cringe at the thought of pouring water up your nose, reminiscing of that painful feeling from a summer at the pool or ocean. This is nothing like that. Mixing distilled or boiled water (never use untreated tap water) and the neti buffering salts will produce a buffered, painless solution. Follow the neti pot’s application instructions. Recommended use: Twice daily.
  • Steam baths. If neti pots aren’t your cup of tea you can fill a basin with steaming hot water, throw a towel over your head to use as a tent, and inhale.  You can add a few drops of a eucalyptus essential oil and/or a menthol solution to the water for a nice effect.  Recommended use:  As often as you like.
  • Snort cayenne powder. When I read about it online I said, “No way!”  But, my entire head was clogged up with bright green gook and I couldn’t breathe. I was desperate. I sprinkled a tiny bit of organic cayenne pepper on my finger and snorted it in each nostril. I felt like a total druggy and instantly my sinuses were on fire. After a few minutes, the burning subsided and I experienced a “release” of mucus.  My head was much clearer the next day. Would I do it again to avoid antibiotics and clear my stuffy head?  Keep in mind a side effect is severe burning sensation. Only recommend for the truly desperate. Recommended use: Twice daily.
  • Garlic and Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV). Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which helps reduce inflammation and fight infection. You can eat some minced garlic or chew on a clove. Then drink a few teaspoons of ACV in a glass of water. ACV has bacteria fighting properties and micronutrients.  Recommended use: Two or three times a day.

Bronchitis

  • Cayenne pepper capsules or cayenne pepper mixed with Manuka honey. Cayenne does something to mucus.  I swear the cayenne heat melts it. Manuka honey has antimicrobial antibacterial properties, but not as harsh as antibiotics.  Manuka honey is expensive, so sometimes I just ingest cayenne pepper in a capsule and get the same effect. Recommended use: Three times a day.
  • Garlic and ACV. Recommended use: Two or three times a day.

Strep Throat

  • Gargle with coconut oil: After my nightmare adventure with amoxicillin I was terrified I’d die from strep throat since I swore off antibiotics. My son kept getting it from day care and gave to me. The majority of strep throat cases go away on their own. To speed up recovery, I began gargling with coconut oil for five minutes because it has natural antibiotic and antifungal properties. Recommended use:  Two to three times a day.

Ear Infection

  • Ear oil with garlic and mullein. You should be able to find garlic and mullein ear oil at any health food store.  I use this when my son complains of an earache or when his doctor said his inner ear was red.  Tilting the head, apply a few drops into the ear canal.  Put a little wad of cotton in the ear to absorb it as it drains.  Recommended use: Twice daily.

Tooth Infection or Abscessed Tooth

  • Organic clove oil. I had major gum and teeth issues the past year. I almost accepted an antibiotic prescription no less than five times. I made it through each time applying a clove oil soaked cotton pad to the affected area.  I am here to tell you I did not die from a tooth infection because I refused antibiotics. Recommended use: Three times a day.
  • Garlic. Place a piece of cut garlic on the infected gum or tooth. Hold there for 5-10 minutes. Recommended use: Two or three times a day.

Urinary Tract Infection

  • D-Mannose: Ask your doctor to culture the type of bacteria for your UTI.  If it is e coli, D Mannose may help.  It is a special kind of sugar that prevents e coli bacteria from adhering to the uterine wall.
  • ACV. According to Earth Clinic, drinking a few teaspoons of ACV in water helps maintain a slightly more acidic environment in your urinary tract. This level of acid is generally enough to diminish the growth of infection-causing bacteria.
  • Cranberry juice. Studies have suggested cranberry prevents bacteria from replicating and building biofilms within the urinary tract. I tested this theory out but had to halt treatment as it brought on an interstitial cystitis (IC) reaction. If you have IC, this or anything acidic isn’t the treatment for you.  Many women think they have a UTI, but it is actually IC.  Always get your urine cultured!

Disclaimer:  This information is not to replace medical advice.  Always seek the care of a physician if you are running a high fever, are in severe pain, having difficulty breathing, or have other serious symptoms.  I do not include information about herbal antibiotics, herbal anti-virals, homeopathic preparations, or anything else I feel only a qualified herbalist, functional medicine practitioner, acupuncturist or naturopath should “prescribe”.  If you would like information on them, I encourage you seek out one of these practitioners. 

This article was published on Hormones Matter originally in November 2015. 

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3 Comments

  1. As to your last section the IC may well have been triggered because your body was trying to wash the bacterium out. Working through it by drinking plenty of water and perhaps even cranberry juice may resolve it faster.

    The body will use whatever means it can to ‘purge’ itself of unwanted elements. We have been brainwashed into believing that these responses are ‘illnesses’ and should be oppressed at all costs, but inflammation, pus, sweats, fevers, zits, spots, boils, rashes, coughs, colds, vomiting, diarrhoea, and cystitis are all purging and/or healing responses. In inflammation or fevers, the body raises the core temperature around the area or the body to destroy unwanted pathogens. Lowering the inflammation stops that process and may allow the pathogen to survive.

  2. I think that this is a great article and I hope everyone reads it. I have been working on this similar issue for the last two years since I repeatedly had urinary tract infections and the top doctor at the hospital remarked that I have been over prescribed antibiotics. I sat about trying to find alternative routes. I could add some other suggestions to your excellent article. There is so much that is available in the world of homeopathy, In the world of Ayurvedic medicine, and also naturopathy. Elderberry syrup made with ginger cloves cinnamon and manuka honey has been a godsend. The vitamin C needs to be whole or raw vitamin C absolutely not as obit acid. For urinary tract infection The baba Ramdev medicines from India have literally been miraculous formulae for me. Since taking them any urinary tract infections never get off the ground. A hefty dose of grape seed extract along with the vitamin C also is of a enormous benefit . Thank you Brooke for writing what you wrote. I am grateful for it and I recognize we have lots in common.

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