Study: To Fight Infections and Lower Antibiotic Resistance, Just Eat This
When was the last time you showed up to your doctor's or walk-in clinic with a sinus infection and the doctor refused to give you antibiotics, citing the fact that over-prescribing these miracle drugs contribute to the growing threat of antibiotic resistance? The fact is that antibiotic-resistant bugs are growing, as our arsenal of medications becomes less effective against life-threatening infections, and one day when you most need the bacterial fighters to knock out a deadly infection – whether it be sepsis or another killer – they may not work.
Antibiotic resistance is a growing threat in this country, as superbugs and powerful bacterial and other germs develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. Approximately 3 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. each year, killing more than 35,000 people unnecessarily. Now there may be a simple way, through diet, to help strengthen the anti-microbial drugs and allow our bodies and immune systems to defeat them, a new study says. That superfood? Dietary fiber.
Dietary Fiber Lowes Antibiotic-Resistant Genes
Everyone extols the virtues of fiber, as a dietary ingredient that helps you lose weight, lower your risk of disease and keep blood sugar steady and insulin from surging. But now a new study shows just how powerful dietary fiber is when it comes to fighting off infections and helping the meds your doctor gives you to do their job. In a study just released, researchers found that a high fiber diet lowers antibiotic resistance in the body, allowing life-saving drugs to do their job.
The study, published in the American Society for Microbiology, looked at how the bacteria in the gut – known as your microbiome – can help the immune system rally its defenses against microbial invaders of all sorts. The researchers took 290 adults and asked them what they ate in the past 24 hours, then measured which individuals had more antibiotic-resistant genes (ARGs) present in the body.
Individuals in the lowest quartile of ARGs (low-ARG) consumed significantly more fiber in their diets than medium- and high-ARG individuals, meaning those would be healthiest and the drugs would work best on them.
"Since resistance to antibiotics is encoded in the microbiome, interventions aimed at altering the taxonomic composition of the gut might allow us to prophylactically engineer microbiomes that harbor fewer antibiotic-resistant genes (ARGs). Diet is one method of intervention, and yet little is known about the association between diet and antimicrobial resistance," the researchers posed as a starting point.
Since antibiotic-resistant genes create the opportunity for more illness, costing the health-care system millions each year, and leading to tens of thousands of death, the study authors wrote, "diet is a powerful method for shaping the human gut microbiome and may be a tractable method for lessening antibiotic resistance."
"We examined this relationship in healthy individuals who contained various abundances of antibiotic resistance genes and found that individuals who consumed diverse diets that were high in fiber and low in animal protein had fewer antibiotic resistance genes. Dietary interventions may be useful for lessening the burden of antimicrobial resistance and might ultimately motivate dietary guidelines which will consider how nutrition can reduce the impact of infectious disease."
How to Eat to FIght Infection
So if you are suffering from anything bacterial (as opposed to viral, such as COVID-19) whether it be a debilitating sinus infection or recurring UTI, add more fiber to your diet to allow the antibiotics to kick in faster and knock those infectious agents to the curb.
Antibiotics are the most powerful tools we have to fight life-threatening infections, like those that can lead to sepsis. However, anytime antibiotics are used, they can cause side effects and contribute to antibiotic resistance. The CDC estimates that of the 150 million courses of antibiotics given out each year, about one-third, or 47 million antibiotics are not necessary.
How often have you tried to get antibiotics for a sore throat or sinus infection and been told that you need to tough it out, for the communal and individual benefit that we as a nation are experiencing lower antibiotic drug efficacy, and that as we become more antibiotic-resistant, the drugs work less and less well?
So fiber could be a solution to bringing back our ability to fight off infections better and help these miracle life-saving drugs (which can especially be needed in the case of post-surgical infection) to do their job and knock out the infection, or in the case of more localized infections such as an ear or tooth infection, give our immune system the head start it needs to do its job.
Eat a High Fiber Diet
To boost your overall health and fight off infections, adding more fiber to your diet is a good idea To do that, eat more vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Check out this list of the top 20 sources of fiber. Animal product such as meat, dairy, poultry and fish do not contain fiber, which is only found in plant-based foods.
The minimum amount of fiber to eat a day is 28 grams for women and 36 grams for men, according to the USDA recommendations. Yet, most Americans don't get even close to that amount. If the USDA recommends that Americans eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day, less than 10 percent of us achieve that goal, experts say.
"In fact,19 out of 20 Americans are not just a little deficient in fiber but eat extremely low amounts," says Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, an author and MD who lost 50 pounds on a high-fiber diet and urges his patients to load up on vegetables. His book, Fiber Fueled: The Plant-Based Gut Health Program for Losing Weight, Restoring Your Health, and Optimizing Your Microbiome, and new cookbook, help you eat more fiber to achieve your health and wellbeing goals.
Read More: How a High-Fiber Diet Can Help You Lose Weight, From a Doctor
Fiber is the roughage in vegetables and fruit that slows down the absorption of nutrients in the diet. High-fiber diets have been linked with lower disease risk and higher success at weight loss. For 5 delicious plant-based recipes that are high in fiber check out this list.
Bottom Line: Eat More Fiber to Lower Antibiotic Resistance, Study Says
To help your body fight off infection and lower the chance that you succumb to antibiotic-resistant superbugs, a new study out of UC Davis, California finds that people who eat the most fiber have the healthiest microbiomes, which is where your body begins its defense and where antibiotic-resistant genes can be found. The more fiber, the healthier your body stays.