2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Knowledge Base

Welcome to our extensive library of articles on health concerns and conditions, alternative therapies, nutrition, nutritional supplements, and much more. Acupuncture / Traditional Chinese Medicine Aging Allergies & Food Sensitivities Alternative Therapies Big Pharma Evils Bone Health Candida (Yeast) and Parasites Cardiovascular Health Case Studies Chiropractic & Physical Medicine Dermatology Digestion Diseases Ear, Nose & Throat Environmental Sensitivities Eye Care Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Fitness & Exercise Health Insurance Issues Healthy Lifestyle Immune System Inflammation Integrative Medicine Lyme Disease & Morgellons Men's Health Mental Health Nutrition, Nutritional Supplements, Vitamins, & Herbal Remedies Pain Management Sexual Health Thyroid, Adrenal, & Sex Hormone Issues Weight Issues Women's Health

Avoiding The Antibiotic Doomsday Scenario

Does anyone remember the late director Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 movie “Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”? A deranged US Air Force officer manages to launch a nuclear attack against the Soviet Union (now Russia). When the president calls in the Russian ambassador to apologize for this embarrassment, the ambassador informs him that the attack will trigger the much-feared “doomsday machine” and the world will end in a mass of nuclear explosions. If you’ve not seen Dr. Strangelove, let me reassure you the movie is a comedy, albeit one of the darkest ever made.

I bring this up only because two days after watching Dr. Strangelove for the umpteenth time, I came across the phrase “doomsday scenario” in several articles from the UK about antibiotic resistance. You might remember that last month I wrote about the ubiquity of health warnings and how we’re being cautioned against everything from backyard charcoal grilling to overly enthusiastic yoga postures.

Listen up. This recent warning is deadly serious.

Britain’s Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies, an MD, went on record stating that antibiotic resistance is a greater threat to the world than international terrorism and annually far more lethal. Later, apparently thinking terrorism an insufficiently intense comparison, she upped the ante and called antibiotic resistance a greater threat than global warming. With Pakistan reportedly building a nuclear bomb and the polar icecap melt drowning small islands in the Pacific, I think all three scenarios are pretty awful.

The final moments of Dr. Davies’ doomsday scenario play out with all bacteria becoming resistant to all antibiotics. Very Stephen King. Strep throat invariably progresses to fatal pneumonia, a minor scratch to terminal blood poisoning. Surgical incisions routinely infect despite all precautions.

It didn’t have to be this way. Antibiotics changed healthcare in the 20th century. It’s the sulfas, ‘cillins, and ‘mycins that are the principal reason we now enjoy a lifespan decades longer than our great grandparents. Right now, in 2013, every third baby born in the US will likely live to age 100. This, too, is possible courtesy of antibiotics.

But overusing antibiotics can kill us off, a real-life doomsday scenario.
Currently we’re encountering the result of antibiotic overuse primarily in hospitals, where multi-drug combinations are needed to deal with bacteria that have the ability to outsmart our drugs. How they do this is actually quite interesting. Apparently the bacteria have a sort of antibiotic pumping system in their cell walls which works so efficiently that as fast as a drug enters a cell, the pump activates and starts bailing the antibiotic out. And yes, to you scientifically minded, the latest research on antibiotic resistance focuses on discovering so-called bacterial pump inhibitors.

If your sensibilities trend more toward sci-fi, imagine the following real-life scenarios. Worldwide, the most resistant bacteria is tuberculosis, for which many antibiotics must  be administered simultaneously for successful treatment. Yet multi-drug-resistant TB is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths every year. Hundreds of thousands.

Here in the US, the villain is MRSA (methicillin-resistant staph aureus), which kills about 25,000 hospital patients a year. We used to destroy MRSA with a second antibiotic, vancomycin, but as luck would have it VRSA (you can guess what the initials stand for) emerged.

In a primary-care setting like WholeHealth Chicago, we’ve seen little evidence so far of antibiotic resistance. I’m told penicillin-resistant gonorrhea is out there, but it’s NIMBY (not in my backyard) for us. I got the sense this year that the generally useful Z-Pak (azithromycin) wasn’t working as well as usual, but there have been no official warnings about this.

Remember: antibiotics work against bacteria and only bacteria.
The dire alerts about antibiotic overuse from the World Health Organization (WHO) are directed at two groups in charge of antibiotic distribution:

  • First and foremost, primary care physicians are urged to avoid overprescribing antibiotics for conditions that simply don’t require them and will never respond to them (mainly those caused by viruses).
  • Second, the agricultural industry, which pours broad-spectrum antibiotics into livestock, is being urged to stop. Animals raised this way for meat become infected with resistant bacteria that are then passed onto (and into) consumers.

Physicians and farmers alike offer up all sorts of excuses to justify their behavior, but the WHO is right. Everyone with access to antibiotics seems to be overusing them. For you, I recommend thinking twice before calling your physician or heading to a minute clinic for an antibiotic. Keep in mind…

  • Virtually all colds (sore throat, runny nose, nonproductive cough) are viral and definitely need no antibiotic. Just treat symptoms as they come and they’ll resolve on their own.
  • The vast majority of sinus infections and bronchitis are also caused by viruses and can be self-treated with steam inhalation, mucous-thinners like Mucaplex, decongestants like Soledum, immunity enhancers like Host Defense, neti pots, and/or asthma inhalers. If you get a respiratory infection and are slowly feeling a little better, though “not fast enough,” be patient. “Not fast enough” is not a call for antibiotics.

The rule-of-thumb about antibiotic need is this: if you have an infection and at first thought you were getting better but suddenly started getting worse (fever, deeper cough, copious sputum), then you really might need an antibiotic. Also, as a rule, you’ll need an antibiotic for many skin infections and virtually all kidney and bladder infections. You can try natural treatments, like cranberry for bladder infections, for a day or two, but if you’re not improving, contact your doctor.

What none of these doomsday articles on antibiotics mentions is that the very best way to prevent antibiotic overuse is for people to maintain a healthful lifestyle and simply not need antibiotics at all. Any physician will tell you that the worst infections occur in patients who have compromised their immunity through years of self-neglect. Cigarettes, excessive alcohol or recreational drugs, unchecked stress, lack of exercise, and dreadful eating habits can all lead to an increased susceptibility to infections.

In medical school, the term we learned was “host susceptibility.” This meant an infection occurred not because a species of bacteria was particularly vicious, but rather because the patient was especially vulnerable. For example, obesity can lead to diabetes and diabetics are more susceptible to infections than the rest of the population.

If you’d like to start eating antibiotic-free meats (and I recommend it), choose certified organic products at Whole Foods, yes, but also check out Chicago’s Butcher & Larder, which supports regional farmers who grow meat sustainably.

The central lesson (as always) is to take good care of yourself. If you’re not a susceptible host, you may never need an antibiotic and thus you’ll never contribute to the doomsday scenario of antibiotic resistance.

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD


Leave a Comment

  1. Mary Maxwell says:

    Dr. Edelberg,
    I liked this article. FYI, I have been taking VSC, by Nature Sunshine every year for years, when I am around people with viruses, and have not gotten sick, If I am getting symptoms I up the dose. Excellent product to fight viruses.
    Also, surprised you haven’t told me about Iadoral for thyroid. You have had me on thyroid medication for years,
    and know how I feel about medicine. My friend Lorraine, not a patient of yours emailed you about this. I am now on it. I got i from my herbalist. I am still taking my thyroid meds, won’t go off until we see a turn around. Reminder with me, Herbs First, be fore meds.
    Hope your having some great travels.

  2. Mark Evans says:

    Check out the BBC drama Survivors if you like pathogenic apocalypses.

  3. ber says:

    What do u know about flurorquinolone toxicity syndrome?

  4. Dr E says:

    To Ber:
    Go into the Health Tips archives for the article I wrote on the subject called “Poisoned by an Antibiotic”

  5. Spiffy says:

    Sometimes even people who have had a healthy lifestyle run into problems. There are those that ate only organic wheat, milk, and eggs only to find out that they carry a celiac gene and have extreme gluten sensitivity and are allergic to dairy and eggs. Which if they do not figure out in time….and most of them do not because most docs ignore nutrition and what we eat…other autoimmune conditions kick in. Then there are all these people walking around with MTHFR mutations who do not even know it…even though we have known about this since the 1990’s. They are going around taking the government’s fake folic acid until the day they die. It is stored up in their systems and gunking up their methylation cycle. Yes, live a healthy lifestyle…whatever you think this is….don’t smoke….but rest assured you need to find a functional med doc willing to find out these things. You can exercise until the cows come home but you cannot escape genes without some help.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!


Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our


The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!


Upcoming Workshops


**Join us for a demonstration of Taoist Tai Chi® internal arts of health
Saturday, August 26th at 11:00AM – 12:00PM
There is no fee for this program
WholeHealth Chicago
2265 North Clybourn Ave.

This demonstration of Taoist Tai Chi® arts will give you an opportunity to learn more about this ancient path to good health of body and mind. Taoist Tai Chi® arts help to promote a healthy, balanced life style and a simple way to manage stress. Taoist Tai Chi® arts offers a chance to discover a powerful adaptable, and accessible tool for all ages, including seniors, and people with specific health concerns. These arts can be used to help people take responsibility for their health on its own or as a complement to medical treatment they may be receiving.


**Facial Rejuvenation Guasha Class
The Ultimate DIY Anti-Aging Facial!

With Mari Stecker, LAc
Thursday September 21, 2017, 6:30-8PM, $65 course fee

Join us and learn a traditional Chinese facial rejuvenation technique that you can do yourself! Guasha treatment is a 2,000 year old Chinese massage technique that uses a flat tool to apply pressure to the skin to increase circulation as it moves along acupuncture channels.

Facial guasha is an easy to learn technique that:
* encourages blood flow and promotes radiance
* prevents wrinkles
* activates cells to regain facial elasticity
* drains fluids to detoxify skin and reduce puffiness
* sloughs off dead skin cells
* uplifts and tones skin
* firms up facial muscles
* minimizes dark circles
* promotes a healthy, younger and more radiant look

Space is limited and registration is required.
Register online or call WholeHealth Chicago at 773-296-6700


**Vaginal Rejuvenation
October 12th, 6:00pm – 8:00pm  Fee: $65
With Mari Stecker, LAc & Renee Zambo, RYT

Are you experiencing vaginal dryness? Or pain with intercourse? Have you been told you have vaginal atrophy due to menopauseAre you frustrated because you believe your sex life is overWell, it doesn’t have to be!

Come learn easy, non-pharmaceutical, non-hormonal, low cost techniques that you can do at home to help alleviate vaginal dryness, atrophy, thinning of vaginal skin and/or painful intercourse.

This class is appropriate for any woman who is experiencing discomfort during intercourse, pelvic exams or daily activities due to vaginal dryness and atrophy as well as women who are experiencing vaginal changes due to perimenopause, menopause, cancer treatments, hysterectomy or medications.

This class will include information on specific instructions for self-treatments that can be done at home as well as yoga postures and meditation that focus on the pelvic region.

Movement and breath will draw awareness to the pelvic floor, and facilitate both the full relaxation and activation of pelvic floor muscles. A short guided meditation will reconnect awareness to the feminine energy held within the pelvis.

Space is limited and registration is required.
Register on-line or by calling (773) 296-6700.


Recent Health Tips

  • Women and ADHD, Part 1

    Already ten minutes late for her first appointment, Claire phoned from her car that she’d be in the office in five minutes. Fifteen minutes later, arriving flustered and embarrassed, she blurted “Oh my gosh, I left all the forms on my kitchen table, but I …Read More »
  • The Dangerous Myth of Opioid Addiction

    Trying to reduce the pain of my patients plays a major role in my day-to-day life as a doctor. When I was in training, there was a big debate going on: Should a doctor prescribe an opioid for non-cancer pain? The answer was Never! In …Read More »

August Sale: 20% Off All Hyland Homeopathic Products

Hyland’s has been trusted for generations to provide safe, effective, homeopathic medicines for every member of the family.  Take 20% off these products during August.  Read more>>