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Liz from Minnesota: Stories of Antibiotic Use and Resistance
Beginning in my late 20s, I developed debilitating chronic sinusitis caused by nasal polyps. I was routinely prescribed antibiotics to treat my sinus infections, despite the fact that there was growing evidence to suggest that antibiotics were ineffectual in treating such conditions. I trusted that my ENT (ear, nose, and throat specialist) was making the right choices. But after two surgeries and more than five years of nearly constant antibiotic use, I still suffered from polyps and chronic infections. To make matters worse, I also developed C. diff (Clostridium difficile).
In my experience, simply getting people to be open-minded about options other than antibiotics has been a challenge. After years of going in circles with surgery, steroids, and antibiotics, I finally realized that I had to approach my wellness through lifestyle change. I made the choice to stop taking antibiotics and steroids for my sinus infections. Instead, I chose to radically change my diet. It took several months, but the polyps eventually disappeared, as did the infections. Unfortunately, when my ENT saw these positive results, he had absolutely no interest in learning what it was that I had done to get better. Of course antibiotics are necessary, but they shouldn’t be the only option. The medical community needs to be willing to discuss alternative ways to approach certain conditions. The public needs to take responsibility as well. We need to readjust our expectations of what antibiotics can cure, and we need to be more aware of their potential for harm.
My C. diff was resistant to the common methods of antibiotic treatment. After two extremely expensive courses of vancomycin- costing $2,000 per course- I was still suffering from persistent C. diff. Living with C. diff affects all aspects of a person’s life. Even something as simple as running to the store can be extremely stressful because an episode of diarrhea can happen at any time. Fortunately, I was introduced to a doctor who was doing a study on Lactobacillus GG [a probiotic]. Within a few of weeks of taking a simple and inexpensive probiotic, my C. diff disappeared. I’m not cured. If I take even a single antibiotic, the C. diff returns with a vengeance. But at least I know that I have a safe option for treatment.
The medical professionals that I dealt with were only willing to support a conventional approach to treating sinusitis. They kept prescribing the same drugs over and over, even when it was apparent that this approach was not working. On a positive note, this forced me to educate myself about how diet and lifestyle choices contributed to my condition. As a result, I found that I could manage my sinus infections through diet and regular nasal flushing.
This is such a massive and complex problem, and I’m afraid that the medical industry and agricultural industries are not taking it seriously enough. This impacts every facet of out lives- our water, our food, our health. I’m just one small example of what can happen when antibiotics are misused.
I’d like to know when taking an antibiotic is the right choice for treatment and not just the quickest fix.