It’s hard to go a week and not read a story about someone dying from another antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Many conventional and holistic doctors consider the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria to be a gigantic threat to humanity (source). Not tomorrow, but now, as in today.
According to the CDC each year, “at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.”
These threats are real, here are just a sampling of the types of bacteria that have become antibiotic resistant:
- E-coli (often causing UTI infections)
- Staphylococcus aureus (as in MRSA)
- C-difficile (high fatality rate)
- Klebsiella Pneumoniae (can cause pneumonia and meningitis)
- Gonococcus (gonorrhea)
And there are many more, with new strains popping up regularly.
While my specialty in health coaching is in helping people get the toxins out of their lives, I’ve worked on several cases of antibiotic resistant bacteria. In each case I’ve found the bacteria to be quick to adapt, opportunistic, and stubborn.
So what do you do when you’ve got an antibiotic resistant infection and your doctors have run out of options?
What about the person who simply doesn’t want to subject themselves to antibiotics, knowing that it will potentially create a flurry of other problems and make them even more vulnerable?
I’m here to say there are options beyond pharmaceutical antibiotics…and options to keep you from relapsing, but you have to treat the WHOLE body.
These 4 pillars can help you create a custom roadmap to heal your body and make you far less likely to have a relapse of infection.
The information in this series was born out of necessity, perseverance, and an ongoing battle with devastating bacteria in those closest to me.
This post is actually a follow up to my very popular post, Natural Remedy for Staph Infection, where I detailed my journey to find the best natural remedy for an antibiotic resistant staph infection.
In this second part I’m going beyond the single remedy and going over how to create and use a full scope approach to conquer any serious bacterial infection.
In part three, The Full Staph Infection Protocol, I go over a full protocol for those battling with MRSA or a staph infection.
The following four-part approach can be applied to any bacterial infection, all you need to do is customize it to your unique situation.
There are some who always point out that no matter what, inevitably some will succumb to their infections. I argue that while that may be true, many more people can fully recover from serious and repeated infections like MRSA–provided they can take a multi-pronged approach.
For the record the standard Western Medicine approach, which is mainly to try more antibiotics until either the host dies or the bacteria dies, is NOT a multi-pronged approach, and failing many patients.
I should also add I’m NOT against traditional Western Medicine and I’m not completely against pharmaceuticals. I have and would use antibiotics under very specific circumstances where they were truly warranted. But I agree with many of the top holistic doctors who argue that common sense has been lost in favor of prescription drugs.
As a society we have been conditioned to chase the next pill and are rarely told to consider anything that isn’t sanctioned by the almighty industry.
I argue that we should intelligently consider ALL available options.
If antibiotics makes sense then go for it, but if they don’t or if they’ve failed you, like they did me, then read on.
He are the four pillars I have used to customize antibacterial protocols.
Pillar #1: First Control the Spread
Bacteria is opportunistic and adapts frighteningly quickly. Controlling the spread is the top priority.
Simply put, the more the bacteria has established itself upon the host the longer and more difficult recovery will be.
Ideally you want to get a handle on an infection early. This is NOT the time to mull things over and dilly-dally over potential remedies. Take action and do it quickly.
If you choose prescription antibiotics then this may get the job done (depending on the bacteria). However as we’ve seen this isn’t always enough.
If you find that prescription antibiotics aren’t enough or you choose to avoid them then you’ll be using natural therapies, this means finding the best solutions for your particular type of infection.
First, you’ll need to take stock of the location of infection, internal or external?
If external, then a topical herbal antibiotic like the one I discuss in part one is key. This remedy is a broad spectrum herbal antibiotic that works very well. I applied it every 4 hours around the clock (yes even at night–because when I didn’t bacteria would spread).
I you don’t have much on hand (as most reading this won’t) something as simple as a diluted apple cider vinegar bath can make a big difference in a pinch. A one to one ratio is a good starting point for a serious infection.
Raw freshly cut garlic is also a powerful antibacterial (source). Rubbing a raw clove on a small infection can also make a big difference. Eating raw garlic can also be helpful.
In the example of my little one with a staph infection, I used diluted apple cider vinegar baths as well as topical applications of tea tree oil until I found the perfect herbal antibiotic for her strain of staph.
Pure raw UMF 15+ manuka honey can also help stave off an infection, and sometimes be all that’s needed to eradicate it. There is good research to support manuka honey against bacteria such as MRSA (source)
However, in my case of the staph infection, honey definitely helped but it was not enough by itself.
I also recommend everyone keep a bottle of 100% pure oregano essential oil on hand for this kind of situation.
Oregano oil is highly antibacterial (source). A few drops of diluted oregano can be enough to kill an infection by itself.
Just remember to ALWAYS dilute the oregano oil, one drop to one teaspoon is a 1% dilution that can make a big difference. Increasing the ratio to 2-5 drops (2%-5%) may be necessary.
The oregano oil cannot be used on eyes or on young children and (again) never undiluted.
For an internal infection (and even topical) I highly recommend a systemic broad spectrum herbal antibiotic such as oral oregano oil capsules at the first sign of infection.
While there is no guarantee oregano oil will work, using a systemic broad spectrum herbal antibacterial agent can help you target many common types of bacteria until you know exactly what you are dealing with. And in some cases oregano oil will be a perfect solution.
When I say systemic I mean a component that moves beyond the digestive tract to other parts of the body.
Some herbs are great at killing bacteria but they don’t move beyond the digestive tract, this limits their effectiveness so you need something that can reach its target.
Two capsules of the Gaia brand (or one capsule of the Vitacost brand—which is stronger) twice daily twelve hours apart should be enough. Remember oregano oil is strong so don’t exceed the dose unless instructed to do so by a physician (probably a naturopath).
If you have a case of strep try adding 1 drop of oregano to a tiny glass of water and gargling every few hours works wonderfully. I have strep from time to time and it does work. Tastes awful, but works.
Again, oregano oil capsules aren’t an option for young kids but there is an oregano oil tincture (oil and alcohol extract) from HerbPharm that can potentially be used with kids older than five (dosed according to their weight). However I recommend you consult with a naturopath pediatrician to make sure it’s appropriate for your child and the type of bacteria. In my situation I had physician approval.
Another good option if the bacteria is intestinal, as in E-coli, C-diff, or salmonella is to take activated charcoal every 4 hours or so. The reason is that charcoals binds the by-products of the bacteria, this can reduce inflammation and intestinal damage. For example with C-difficile it’s these by-products that cause so much pain and damage. Make sure to take charcoal away from any oral medicinal treatment as it can also bind the medicine, rendering it ineffective.
One more odd but helpful option (for a topical infection) is bright direct sunlight. I stumbled on this when I put little one on a lawn chain to get some direct sunlight. I was hoping to give her a vitamin D boost but realized the sunlight helped reduce the spread and severity of the infection. It makes sense as UV itself can kill bacteria and is often used in hospitals for sanitation (albeit in higher artificial doses). It’s not a cure on its own but can help. Obviously don’t sit out long enough to burn or turn red but safe bursts of direct sunlight can be helpful.
Remember, you can (and should) do your research and get lab results (demand a lab culture if necessary—some docs won’t run tests unless you ask), but doing nothing while you wait for those things can be deadly in some cases. A full day is an eternity for bacteria, they can do a lot of damage in a short amount of time.
Now move on to Pillar 2 ASAP.
Pillar #2: Kill the bacteria
Ok Captain Obvious. But this is not as easy as you might think.
Bacteria are notoriously adaptive. They can pivot and alter themselves at frightening speed.
When I battled the staph infection it took just under 48 hours for a pin sized dot to spread from neck to feet. Seriously, lightning fast.
The C-difficile case I worked on went from zero to hospitalization in a few days.
I also just read about a case where a fisherman was dead within a similar time frame from a small wound that became infected.
This is not a drill people.
I’ve learned that while solutions something may keep a bacteria from spreading (like apple cider vinegar or Manuka honey) it may not be enough to actually kill the established colony.
In the case of antibiotic resistant bacteria you’ll often see spread slow and then back in full swing within days.
This will become obvious fairly quickly, spread that stops but doesn’t go away completely is a sure sign you need to do more.
This means you must hit the bacteria with multiple antibacterials. Again, it’s up to you to choose between traditional and/or natural antibiotics, but make sure you are informed either way.
Personally I’ve had great success with natural antibacterials and since I’m always well stocked it’s the route I’m inclined to take.
This bacterial adaptation is also why my topical remedy has so many components. Because I saw firsthand how a good remedy might reduce spread but not be enough to kill the colony.
Of course working with a skilled holistic physician or naturopath is an excellent option. There’s nothing like holistic training and professional experience.
However if you can’t work with a skilled naturopath then this is where you need to research. And I’m NOT talking about Google research.
When doing research remember to look at which specific types of bacteria were inhibited by the proposed remedy. Also note the strength of the dose and the frequency. If your particular strain isn’t cited then note if they were gram- positive or gram-negative bacterial strains.
It’s not a guarantee that the remedy will work if it shares this characteristic but if your strain is in the same category as the tested against strain you might be more likely to see a result.
There are also several books I recommend you keep on hand, Herbal Antibiotics by Stephen Harrod Buhner, A good Materia Medica type book like Medical Herbalism (you can also join a resource like the Herbal Academy of New England for good online monographs), and a book that covers medicinal use of essential oils such as Essential Oil Safety and The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils.
Keep in mind there are many books available, these are just a few that I commonly reference.
I know this may seem like overkill for someone who just wants to treat one infection and move on. I get that. In that case using the two databases and some select online resources may be plenty. In other words you don’t have to become an amateur herbalist to heal yourself.
However, if you are serious about learning how to competently treat a variety of ailments with natural approaches I do recommend a small resource library for handy reference.
Now I won’t sugar coat this, it is VERY time consuming to create these protocols from scratch. I rarely take these types of cases exactly because it can mean hours and hours of research. This is why working with a naturopath is so useful and much safer than going it alone.
That said, here are some starting points (read shortcuts) for those who are in need of some direction ASAP.
These essential oils all have a variety of research supporting their antibacterial efficacy. Some are better for certain types of bacteria than others so you have to do your research, but this is a great place to start.
Note: If you are using essential oils for something as critical as resistant bacteria then make sure you are using high quality, pure, steam distilled, additive free, and preferably organic oils. No need to buy from the MLM schemes that permeate the essential oil market. I like Aura Cacia and Plant Therapy, they are high quality, have organic options, and are priced competitively.
Some non-herbal options are Manuka honey (preferably UMF 15+ certified) bandages (changed every few hours) and colloidal silver spray (best for external infections). I found that when combining colloidal silver to the Essential Oil Staph Remedy, it accelerated the recovery process dramatically.
However for internal use of colloidal silver you should discriminate based on the severity of the bacteria. Researchers argue over whether colloidal silver kills the beneficial bacteria, some say no, some say yes. I haven’t been swayed in either direction.
I do assume there is some beneficial bacteria die off. Therefore, unless I’ve exhausted other remedies and found they have not worked or I”m dealing with a very life threatening bacteria and beneficial bacteria die off won’t overly compromise the patient then (and only then) do I include colloidal silver in an oral remedy.
The information above took me years to figure out. While it may not be specific to any one type of infection it’s a great head start.
A good protocol will usually have at least 2 or 3+ synergistic components that all work together to control and kill the bacteria, plus components to strengthen the immune system (see Pillar #4).
Once you have a protocol, either through a Naturopath or from your own research start using it right away.
You’ll also need to monitor progress very closely. If you see little to no improvement you may need to add new components or increase doses or increase frequency. This can get tricky depending on your protocol and the patient so again, make sure you’ve done your research and preferably are working with a professional.
If you do see progress, don’t get lazy and stop the protocol early. I highly recommend continuing your chosen protocol at least 5-7 days past the last sign of infection (assuming it’s safe to take the natural medicine that long).
I’ve seen cases that were successfully treated only to have the bacteria return in greater force because the protocol was stopped too early or the whole system was not addressed. I discuss this in Pillar 3.
Lastly, while I’m all about natural remedies and use them for everything, I’m also an advocate of common sense. If you choose to go natural and your remedy isn’t working and you are getting worse then you need to consider standard treatment.
I believe that in 95% of cases a properly crafted natural protocol can be effective and often superior to standard treatment, however, many protocols aren’t thorough enough.
It took me weeks to create a proper protocol for the staph and the c-diff case (and in both cases antibiotics were failing). I also have years of knowledge already in my head, I know from experience what to try and how.
I caution any novice against haphazardly throwing together a treatment without any guidance from an herbalist or naturopath. If you’ve tried some great remedies but aren’t getting great results then it’s time to seek professional help.
Pillar #3: Keep the host healthy enough to fight
This is critical and often overlooked.
I can’t stress enough that while battling dangerous bacteria you can’t forget about the host (aka the infected person).
Honestly, I blame this thinking on the Western Medicine model. Patients are conditioned to “take this” or “take that” but rarely counseled on how they might boost their body’s own immune system and resistance. And nutrition is rarely mentioned.
We have been trained to exclusively rely on medications with little thought to our internal healing systems. I believe this is why we’ll see temporary “recovery” from a bacteria, or virus, or disease…only to see the patient relapse again and again.
This becomes even more critical in cases with potentially deadly pathogens. You need all hands on deck giving your army of fighters the support they need, this is key to long term success.
So even if you have decided to use traditional antibiotics you still need to support the body as a whole.
In supporting the body there are a few factors to consider, at the most basic level the affected person must eat food that is conducive to healing. A diet rich in phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, and anti-inflammatory nutrients are all going to help the patient recover and stack the deck in their favor.
Eating junk food, fast food, and processed food is like pouring fuel on a burning building. A terrible idea.
Other critical but often overlooked components are immune system supporting foods and herbs:
- For example turmeric can reduce inflammation (but should be avoided if there is bleeding or a bleeding disorder) and something I regularly add to a protocol.
- Astragalus can substantially aid the immune system and help your body continue to fight the bacteria.
- Dandelion root and burdock root can substantially ease the burden on the liver and kidneys (respectively).
- Milk thistle is another liver booster and can boost glutathione, a critical component in healing and recovery.
- High dose fish oil (or reputable fermented cod liver oil like Rosita Brand–I do NOT recommend the Green pastures product) can substantially relieve inflammation. This may be critical if there is a very high fever or the brain or spinal fluid are affected. But use caution with this because it can also dampen the immune response.
- Non-GMO vitamin C is excellent for any illness, bacterial or viral. I take 4000 mg and more during illness.
- Sunlight and vitamin D3 cannot be underestimated for overall health and healing.
- An adaptogen like ashwaganda can help ease the stress of illness and keep your system from going into overdrive in the wrong direction.
- Medicinal mushrooms are one of my favorite assets in any natural medicine cabinet. Resihi, cordyceps, chaga, turkey tail, and more are all unique and potent in their own way.
- Probiotics can make a huge difference is recovery. There are may high quality brands, I personally take a 100 billion CFU from Garden of Life called Ultimate Care. The strain S-boulardii can also help balance an imbalanced microbiome and is often recommended for C-diff. Whatever you choose make sure to do your research and keep it age/child appropriate.
- And last but not least, the component I add to any healing regimen is red root tincture. Red root helps clear the lymphatic system and this function can really make or break a well-designed protocol. If the lymphatic system can’t clear the bacterial (or viral) debris you won’t heal properly. This step is so important and equally overlooked.
As you can see there are many options to provide support during a bacterial infection. All have their strengths and weaknesses but all should be considered if you are serious about healing from any serious event.
Your body needs the support to do its job, its needs good nourishing food and supplements that can allow it to function optimally.
Illness is VERY taxing on a healthy system but can be catastrophic in an already weakened body, so please make sure you are looking at the system as a whole and not just a single part.
Pillar #4: Encourage healing while keeping your guard up
It’s not enough to survive a serious infection. You need to understand that once a particular type of bacteria has invaded your system it will likely remain in your body permanently.
This is why you see so many C-diff, strep, and MRSA patients relapse. The bacteria was never completely gone.
And frankly total eradication is unrealistic, what you are aiming for is BALANCE.
Success doesn’t mean you’ve completely eliminated the bacteria, it means you’ve killed enough troops to see a retreat of symptoms while allowing beneficial bacteria to repopulate.
This is why you can’t let your guard down or stop taking care of yourself.
A smart protocol for any bacterial infection will also include healing of the affected tissues as well as an ongoing protocol to keep bacteria from outnumbering local good bacteria.
This is the core of the microbiome balance, keeping healthy bacteria present and flourishing so as to control the harmful bacteria from becoming a problem again.
To keep a balanced microbiome you’ll want to eat a healthy organic whole foods based diet that includes plenty of probiotics and prebiotics. There are also many good microbiome diets available, The Mircobiome Diet by Raphael Kellman is one of my favorites.
In particular it’s important to stay away from chemical additives like food colorings, preservatives, stabilizers, as well as pesticides.
Pesticides can cause damage to the interior gut lining and this can allow microscopic particles to escape the gut and cause systemic inflammation. This is known as gut permeability or leaky gut and has been implicated in a variety of autoimmune disorders.
Another factor is the use of antibiotics. Antibiotics can also cause gut permeability and severely damage the microbiome (killing off good bacteria) so if you chose to use them you’ll need to start a serious gut healing microbiome building protocol immediately.
My holistic pediatrician said it could take 6-12 months of an aggressive gut healing protocol to rebuild a balanced microbiome after antibiotics.
In some cases the microbiome will never return back to its original state after antibiotics, but you can get closer to a balanced state by focusing on a solid gut healing regimen and a healthy organic whole foods based diet.
Keep in mind that an unbalanced microbiome can make you more vulnerable to harmful bacteria so it’s critical that you focus on healing.
Again, you can see what an omnivorous whole foods based diet looks like in this post, The Beginner’s Guide to Clean Eating.
You may also notice that you have new food sensitivities that were not there before. This can be caused from damage due to the antibiotics or from the bacteria itself, especially if it was based in any part of the digestive system.
My little one became gluten sensitive after her first and only round of antibiotics. She would break out in a red angry rash as soon as she had any gluten, organic or not. Prior to the antibiotics she never had an issue with modest amounts of organic gluten.
An elimination diet can reveal if you have a sensitivity. Common food sensitivities include gluten, dairy (especially pasteurized), eggs, corn (although this may be a reaction to aflatoxin on the corn), nightshades (tomato, potato, peppers), and high histamine containing foods.
If the infection affected your skin then you’ll need to be diligent about using all natural and toxin-free products. Ok, you should be doing this anyway but particularly if you had a skin infection.
You can read about detoxing your body routine in this post, 5 Dangerous Chemicals in Your Beauty and Body Products, Natural Beauty and Body Product Swaps, and The Best Rated Natural Beauty and Body Products. You can also see my product recommendations in the Filtered Living Shop.
If your skin was infected you also need to make sure to keep it moisturized and healthy. Dry cracked skin is much more susceptible than healthy fresh skin. My favorite moisturizers for dry skin are avocado oil, olive oil, and shea butter.
Calendula oil and lavender essential oil (just a drop or two) are also wonderful skin healers.
Omega 3’s found in chia seed and purified natural form fish oil are also excellent during repair. You may also want to add extra healthy fats like avocado and nuts and seeds during this healing phase.
And last but not least, you’ll need to stay vigilant against relapses. Pay attention to symptoms, check your skin regularly, and if you do suspect a relapse act quickly.
You’ll find it’s usually easier to snuff out a relapse after quick action than it was to address the original infection. Of course make sure you have any needed supplies (essential oils, herbal antibiotics, supplements, etc.) readily available.
Antibiotic resistant bacteria is serious business, you need to react quickly.
If prescription antibiotics have failed you, or you want to go the natural route instead, then there are plenty of scientifically backed natural substances that are proven effective against a variety of bacteria (including resistant bacteria).
Remember to first control the spread then research how to effectively kill the bacteria. This requires dedication and vigilance, working with a holistic practitioner such as a Naturopath is highly recommended.
While treating the bacteria make sure to stay on top of progress and reaction. You may need to increase the dose or frequency or add additional elements. Of course always stay within the safe range for your natural medicines.
Once you are past the infection remember to continue eating a clean Filtered diet. You might also need to repair any damaged tissues through a gut repair protocol or skin healing protocol.
If you suspect a relapse react quickly, and always have the supplies readily available. You don’t want to wait for a shipment to arrive while you get worse.
Phew! That was a lot of information, but I hope it was useful. I know these infections can drive you insane and make you feel miserable and hopeless, but there is hope. It may take time and effort but you can recover your health and win the battle once and for all.
How about you? Have you used natural remedies to battle antibiotic resistant bacteria? Do you have questions or tips? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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