This blog is adapted for length from an article by Dr. Sadeghi for Goop.
Think of the aging body as a flowing river: whatever is introduced to the body ‘upstream’ in our youth (whether it’s a medication, smoking, sports injury or something else) may be felt ‘downstream’ later in life. Too often, medicine mistakes the downstream effects in the body – or the symptoms of a disease or illness – as the cause of disease, neglecting to appreciate that one or more of the real causes could have occurred much further upstream. These causes may have occurred a very long time ago, in the distant past.
One of the most common ways we’re exposing ourselves to potential disease later in life is by taking far too many unnecessary antibiotics. It’s well-known by now that the proliferation of unnecessary antibiotic use by millions of Americans has contributed to the mutation of antibiotic resistant super bugs, but even worse is how all those antibiotics are severely altering the physical terrain of your gut.
Antibiotics were designed to kill any and all micro-organisms without exception. Therefore, they cannot distinguish between microbes that are beneficial to us and those that are harmful. The danger of taking antibiotics is that along with killing the pathogenic microbes that are making us sick, they simultaneously destroy millions of colonies of beneficial bacteria. This good bacteria in our intestines actually form the larger part of our immune system. Thus, when our good bacteria fall below a certain percentage, they can’t keep the bad bacteria and pathogens at bay anymore. When bad bacteria and pathogens proliferate unchecked, it can lead to an assortment of diseases at all stages of life.
Another way we potentially expose ourselves to diseases later in life through medicine is by overusing antihistamines. Histamine is an immune system modulator created naturally by your body. When an allergen enters the body, it’s histamine’s job to sound the alarm that brings white blood cells to the area to eradicate the invader. It does this by creating an immediate inflammatory response, which most people recognize as an allergic reaction.
Antihistamines, which are a common component of allergy medicines, actually prevent the body from producing its own histamine. In essence, it turns off the immune system alarm, not just to the allergen, but to other invaders in the body, as well. This can have serious implications: research has shown mice that lacked histamine had an increase in the susceptibility to colon and skin cancers, as well as increased frequency in tumor formation. Links have also been discovered between long-term antihistamine use and certain brain tumors. While antihistamines don’t technically cause cancer, they do mute the signaling of the immune system, which is fighting off invaders, including cancer cells, in our bodies every day.
These are just a couple of examples of the ways that certain choices we make early in life can lead to serious consequences later. When it comes to medicine, it’s important to recognize that the medication we take may not always be completely beneficial to our health. For more information on how to decrease your risk of disease, read my full article here.