Five Things You Should Know About Antibiotics: A Review of 10% Human

May 30, 2015 non-fiction, Science 22

Five Things You Should Know About Antibiotics: A Review of 10% HumanTitle: 10% Human
Author: Alanna Collen
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Amazon|Indiebound |Goodreads
Rating: four-stars

Summary: This book was fascinating and informative, so full of fun facts that I wanted to take notes on nearly every sentence.

The title of this book, 10% Human, refers to the fact that for every cell in your body, there are nine microbes living in your gut. Your health can be influenced by these microbes in surprising ways. From your weight to your immune system, to your mental health and choice of partner, your microbes can affect every aspect of your life. By influencing your gut microbiome (the microbes living in your gut), antibiotics may play a surprising role in your health. Here are some interesting things this book taught me about antibiotics:

1. Antibiotics are amazing. The creation of antibiotics is one of the majors reasons that average life expectancy has more than doubled, from 31 years in 1900 to 66 years in 2005. In particular, childhood mortality is lower now than at any time in history.

2. Antibiotics can’t cure most respiratory infections (sore throats, bronchitis, etc). Antibiotics are amazing, but they still only kill bacteria. Since only about 1 in 20 respiratory infections is caused by bacteria, a lot of antibiotics prescribed for these illnesses aren’t doing any good.

3. Antibiotics are known to contribute to weight gain. Mice given antibiotics have different gut microbes and gain weight more quickly than mice not given antibiotics. The same was true of a group of US navy recruits given antibiotics. Livestock are regularly given antibiotics to encourage weight gain. It is likely that antibiotics contribute to weight gain in humans.

4. Antibiotics influence human gut microbes and may therefore contribute to many different health problems. The author shows small studies or tidbits of evidence that suggest the gut microbiome and treatment with antibiotics might play a role in everything from IBS to autism. Most of these studies were done with very few individuals and none showed definitively that antibiotics were the cause of these health problems. They were suggestive of a link though, enough so that I personally would be sure not to take antibiotics unless I need them.

5. We should all be informed consumers of antibiotics. Having read this book, I’m not against antibiotics! Neither are the scientists doing this research. However, they are advocating the elimination of unnecessary use of antibiotics. This means that as smart consumers, we should not push doctors to prescribe antibiotics just to be doing something. And if a doctor does prescribe antibiotics, we should ask if our illness is more likely to be caused by bacteria or something else. We should also carefully consider how bad the consequences of not taking antibiotics might be – mild discomfort or serious health issues – and make informed decisions about their use.

Although these are a few of the major points in this book, they’re just the tip of the iceberg. This book was so full of facts, I wanted to copy down nearly every sentence. It was a slow read because it was so information dense, but it was still good enough that I’m seriously considering a re-read to make sure I remember everything I learned. I was very impressed by the author’s ability to clearly explain science concepts without losing important nuances. Given that antibiotic use seems to affect children the most, I’d highly recommend this book to parents or those of you who are expecting, but the information here could be valuable to anyone.

22 Responses to “Five Things You Should Know About Antibiotics: A Review of 10% Human”

  1. Melissa

    Very interesting review! I try to avoid taking antibiotics whenever possible for all of the great reasons that are cited in the book. I’ve also added fermented foods like Kombucha to my diet to try and balance out the good bacteria in the gut.
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    • DoingDewey

      This book made me want to add more fermented foods and/or probiotics to my diet too! i found the book very convincing.

  2. Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy

    This was a fascinating read! It’s so weird to think that we have so many microbes growing in our bodies, and surprising to think how it can be affecting us in unexpected ways. I’m glad you enjoyed this so much – I feel like I would love it, but would find it difficult to be in the mood to read it since it’s so dense!
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    • DoingDewey

      I was very surprised by how long it took me to read this, given how much I was enjoying it! I thought it was particularly fascinating that microbes play essential functions in our metabolism. They’re so integrated with our own cells!
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  3. Krysta @ Pages Unbound

    How interesting! Thanks for sharing all these fun facts! I didn’t know that antibiotics were linked to weight gain or that’s why they’re given to livestock.

    I have to say, though, in my experience the medical community has been very careful in recent years not to give out antibiotics unless necessary. I was once sick for over a month before any of the doctors I saw finally prescribed some, but when I was younger I remember it was pretty standard to to go the doctor and get such a prescription. I know some people do try to push their doctors into prescribing something (especially because they don’t understand that antibiotics can’t treat viruses), but I don’t know of any who have succeeded.

    • DoingDewey

      Sadly, antibiotics are also given to livestock because they’re kept in conditions that breed disease, but weight-gain is a desired side-effect.

      I’m glad to hear that your experience suggests doctors are getting more careful! Even more than the possible negative side effects discussed in this book, I’d hate to see widespread antibiotic resistance develop.
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  4. guiltless reading

    You read such interesting books, Katie! I had a great uncle who swore by Yakult (you probably saw this in the Philippines?) which is a lactobacillus drink that helps with keeping stomach flora happy and healthy. He’d have his little bottle everyday. For me and my cousins, it was a treat when he’s hand out bottles to each of us.
    guiltless reading recently posted…Quote: Read DifferentlyMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      Thanks! I’ve been very excited about the interesting nonfiction I’ve been finding lately. I do think I saw Yakult, but I didn’t try it. It sounds tasty though!
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  5. Trisha

    Fascinating! I shy away from antibiotics because I’ve heard you can develop an immunity, and if I need them, I want those suckers to work. Looks like there are plenty of other reasons to use them sparingly.
    Trisha recently posted…Currently | 31 MayMy Profile

  6. sue

    Great information. Moving to the US from the UK I was amazed at how easily and quick doctors were to prescribe antibiotics. I come from the old school that only takes medication as a last resort. I think if more people read your notes above they might too think twice and save them for when they really are in need of something stronger than OTC drugs. Thanks for sharing.
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    • DoingDewey

      I really wanted to write the post in a way that shared this information, because I think it’s something people should know. It’s so interesting that you noticed a difference between the US and the UK! thanks for sharing 🙂
      DoingDewey recently posted…Nonfiction FridayMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      There not a known mechanism by which antibiotics cause weight gain, but there’s definitely a correlation between taking antibiotics and weight gain. The observation is true for everything from lab mice to livestock, so I’d bet it’s true of humans too!
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