…and how to fight back in the age of antibiotic resistance
Early last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) put out an urgent and terrifying call to arms. It came in the form of a list—one that named the most dangerous superbugs to emerge as a result of modern antibiotic resistance.
The bacteria on this list are nearly unstoppable…lethal in that they no longer respond to the drugs that used to eradicate them easily—or even to powerful, last-resort medications. And hovering at the very top of this list is a common bacterium by the name of Escherichia coli—better known as E. coli.
Yes, that E. coli. The same bug that lives in the gastrointestinal tract of every human. And the same one that’s the leading culprit behind one of the most common infections in the book.
I’m talking about urinary tract infections (UTIs)—which affect roughly a quarter billion people every year.
And before all the men reading tune out, you should know that UTIs don’t just affect women.
Indeed, women are at higher risk of UTIs than men overall. This is a simple fact of biology. Bacteria can enter a woman’s urethra more easily. They also have a shorter distance to travel in order to reach her bladder.
But that doesn’t mean men don’t get UTIs—something you may have already learned the hard way. While these infections are rare in younger guys, the risk increases after the age of 50. And by 60, they’re nearly as common in men as they are in women.
One reason for this is the increased incidence of prostate enlargement, which restricts urine flow. Prostate inflammation—better known as prostatitis—is another red flag for UTI that can affect men of any age. Diabetes, kidney stones, and catheterization will raise your risk, too.
All in all, half of all women, and a large percentage of men, will contract a UTI at some point in their lives.
And with effective antibiotics, it’s typically chalked up to little more than an uncomfortable nuisance.
But with antibiotics that fail? Well, that simple infection can become complicated very fast—spreading to the kidneys and ultimately the blood stream.
In other words, unless something changes fast, UTIs could soon be life-threatening.
The slow march toward an antibiotic apocalypse
In the spring of 2016, a team of researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research discovered a particularly dangerous antibiotic-resistant strain of E. coli. And its source couldn’t have been more ordinary. The sample was taken from a 49-year old Pennsylvania woman with a urinary tract infection (UTI).1
Even more terrifying? This was only one of six strains of super-bacteria the lab had received from locations across the entire country. But the news gets even worse.
Researchers also found a gene called mcr-1 in the bacterium’s DNA. The mcr-1 gene is responsible for making this strain of E. coli essentially bulletproof. But it’s also positioned in a way that appears to make it mobile, too.
In other words, mcr-1 may be capable of attaching itself to new bacteria—not just to E.coli, but to other dangerous organisms, too. Which would render those bacteria antibiotic resistant, as well.
And when I say “resistant,” I mean it in the most deadly sense of the word. The mcr-1 gene steeled this strain of E. coli against a long list of antibiotics, including colistin. This horrible, side-effect laden drug hasn’t been in routine uses since the 70s, due to risks of severe kidney failure. But lately, it’s been a last resort for many patients struck with otherwise untreatable infections. Until now.
With the discovery of this new bacteria, it’s clear that we’re losing one of our last weapons in the war against superbugs. And the consequences could be catastrophic if something doesn’t change soon.
As I’ve warned here before, we are teetering dangerously close to a second dark age in which even common infections will be mass killers. It may not happen overnight like all of those pandemic movies depict. But without effective news drug in the pipeline, people are going to die.
How it came to this—and why Big Pharma is standing on the sidelines
On the one hand, it was bound to happen eventually.
We’ve seen the development of more than a hundred antibiotics since the discovery of penicillin in 1928. And scientists have known about bacterial resistance for as long as patients have been using these drugs.
Bacteria adapt to survive—it’s what living organisms do. But let’s just say that we’ve done more than our part in speeding the process along.
The antibiotics we administer to livestock are easily one of the biggest factors. And no one should be surprised. Of course we’re going to face problems when we pump a bunch of chemicals—not just antibiotics, but growth hormones, pesticides, and herbicides—straight into our food supply.
But antibiotic residue in particular has risen by 800 percent in meats, milk, and cheeses. And we’re now learning the hard way that this doesn’t come without a price tag.
Speaking of price tags, it’s worth noting that Big Pharma hasn’t churned out a new antibiotic since the 80s. They’ve abandoned any real efforts in order to funnel their resources into more profitable cash cows like statins and erectile dysfunction drugs. And they haven’t had any incentive to do otherwise. (At least, not a financial one—which, as we all know, is the only kind that really matters to the pharmaceutical industry.)
But that may change soon. In fact, WHO released this new list of drug-resistant bacteria in the hopes of igniting a discussion about how to pay pharmaceutical companies to kickstart new antibiotic development. An arrangement that leaves a pretty bad taste in my mouth, however necessary it may be.
I mean, come on! Are you kidding me? We’re just supposed to fork our tax dollars over to Big Pharma? (As if they aren’t rich enough already…) All because they’ve decided that the cost of developing new antibiotics just isn’t worth the human lives it would save?!
I truly wonder they possess the capabilities to fathom potential consequences, especially since lethal UTIs may soon have all those paying customers dropping like flies. All because the one contribution they’ve made to this fight isn’t worth the paper the prescription is written on…
FDA fast-tracking isn’t going to save us
Last September, the FDA approved a drug called Vabomere for treating antibiotic-resistant UTIs caused carbapenem-resistant enterobacteria, or CREs. Carbapenems are another class of last-resort antibiotics—and a gene called blaNDM-5 renders bacteria resistant against them, just as mcr-1 shields bugs from colistin.
Yes, that makes two last-ditch drugs we’re in danger of losing. And, in fact, doctors made their first encounter with a common strain of E. coli resistant to both of them in late 2014.2 (The patient was a 76-year-old New Jersey man who had suffered recurrent UTIs since receiving treatment for prostate cancer.)
So I’m not saying that we don’t need more drugs like Vabomere. Obviously, we do—and desperately.
But we should also recognize that “fast-tracking” newcomers to the market could backfire in a really big way. And that’s just what the FDA did here—despite a long list of worrisome side effects, from diarrhea and headaches to seizures and delirium.
Apologists would argue that this practice simply bypasses a whole lot of unnecessary red tape to bring cures to patients who need them sooner rather than later. But the problem with this argument is that almost none of the drugs fast-tracked for approval have actually been shown to do what they’re supposed to do.3
These fast-tracked drugs were brought to market based on trials that don’t actually measure for clinical outcomes (pretty important factors like death, functional status, hospitalization, or even clinical markers of disease activity). Instead, the trials use what the researchers call “surrogate markers”—measures that suggest a possible outcome, but fail to show the actual results.
This means that the drug manufacturers and the government collude to assure you—and the doctors (who generally trust whatever the FDA says)—that these drugs are effective and safe.
In other words, we have no real way of knowing if the potential risks are outweighed by the benefits of these medications. Yet all those holier-than-thou mainstream medical fanatics would have you believe that there’s indisputable evidence behind the drugs they use and recommend.
Long story short… there’s not. Drug companies aren’t on some humanitarian mission…
The less money they have to invest in research to get newer, more expensive drugs on the market, the better. Unfortunately, FDA fast-tracking is just the golden ticket they need.
Vabomere may end up being a safe and effective weapon against antibiotic-resistant UTIs. But that remains to be seen. And even if it does stand the test of time, it’s still just one drug up against a growing tidal wave of deadly superbugs.
The common-sense cure for recurrent UTIs
There’s no simple solution to antibiotic resistance. And avoiding what now appears to be a near-inevitable antibiotic apocalypse is going to require a global effort. But if everyone limited their own use of antibiotics, that would certainly help to buy us some time.
And that means taking steps to prevent complicated bacterial infections in the first place.
A strong immune system is your first line of defense in this fight. And there are a number of supplements you can take to ensure that your body is equipped to handle whatever bugs come your way. (See the sidebar on page X for a list of my favorites.)
But especially if you suffer from recurrent UTIs, a few additional precautions can go a long way toward breaking the cycle for good.
First, there’s one thing you shouldn’t do. And that’s fill up on cranberry juice. It’s true that cranberry is probably your best natural defense against UTIs. (I’ll get back to that in a moment.) But the idea is to fortify your immune system, not stress it with sugar.
With that said, you should be drinking plenty of water. It seems like an obvious recommendation to make. But a recent study showed that drinking three extra glasses of water a day—approximately 95 ounces daily—cut both infections and resulting antibiotic use in half among women suffering from recurrent UTIs.4
Increasing your water intake isn’t the only lifestyle change that can have a surprisingly big impact on your urinary tract health. And the next core strategy is one that followers of my A-List Diet are already quite familiar with…
Alkalize your system the A-List way
As part of a 2015 study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, scientists evaluated urine samples from 50 men and women.5 Their goal was to find out why some patients are more susceptible to urinary tract infections than others. And their focus was on siderocalin—a protective protein that cells generate in the earliest stages of a UTI, which blocks the growth of harmful bacteria.
The researchers discovered that siderocalin inhibits bacterial growth more effectively in some people than in others. And as it turns out, this critical protein’s ability to do its work hinges on the composition or your urine… and ultimately, on your diet. For one thing, urine with a high pH—that is, more alkaline—was better at resisting colonization by harmful bugs. But samples with the strongest antibacterial activity also contained higher levels of certain metabolites—specifically, the byproducts of interactions between gut bacteria and dietary phenols. (These compounds are key features of antioxidant-rich foods like chocolate, tea… and yes, cranberries.)
In other words, you can maximize your body’s ability to fight off UTIs on its own by ensuring three key factors: 1) an alkaline environment 2) a strong microbiome 3) a steady stream of phenol-rich foods.
So, how do you do that?
Simple—follow my A-List Diet. It’s an alkalizing, Mediterranean-style eating plan
that checks all of these crucial boxes. I discuss exactly how alkalization works and how to incorporate it into your diet in Chapter One of The A-List Diet. I’ll show you how to replace the foods you eat now with more alkaline alternatives. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Eat less: cottage cheese, ice cream, and processed cheese
- Eat more: aged cheese, butter, cream, and goat cheese
- Eat less: cooked tomatoes, canned fruit, cranberries, dates, dried fruit, plums, pomegranates
- Eat more: raw tomatoes, apples, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, watermelon
- Eat less: beef, chicken, mussels, pork, veal, squid, lobster
- Eat more: boar, chicken eggs, shellfish, turkey, venison, fish
For my full A-List Diet “alkaline cheat sheet,” refer to page 103 of my book.
When you pair an alkaline diet with just a handful of targeted supplements, you’re looking at a solution for recurrent UTIs that’s safe, effective, and lasts a very long time.
And more importantly, one that could free you from a lifetime of antibiotic dependence for good.
The bottom line? Whether you’re male or female, if you’re seeing all the tell-tale signs—frequency, urgency, and painful, difficult urination—don’t just shrug it off. Call your doctor immediately… it could be more serious than you think.
My six staples for a powerhouse immune system
I recommend these daily supplements to lay the foundation for a healthy immune system, and overall health:
- A quality, multiple-strain probiotic formula. If your gut isn’t functioning properly, nothing in your body will—especially not your immune system. Remember, almost 80 percent of your immune cells are produced in your gut. So keeping it healthy with a good probiotic that contains multiple strains of beneficial bacteria is a must — I’m a fan of Dr.Ohhira’s line. I typically recommend 1 to 2 capsules per day.
- AHCC. This is a blend of medicinal mushrooms with tons of clinical research supporting its powerful immune modulating benefits. I recommend 1,000 mg to 3,000 mg per day.
- Vitamin D3. This vitamin plays a critical role in your immune system health. But most people simply can’t get enough from sun exposure alone. So I recommend at least 2,000 to 5,000 IU per day. (Some people may require as much as 10,000 IU daily.) I urge you to have your blood levels monitored regularly to make sure you’re getting enough to keep your levels where they need to be (which is between 80 and 100).
- Vitamin C. With thousands of research studies supporting its role in immunity, you really can’t argue with the wisdom of a daily vitamin C supplement. I advise taking 1,000 mg, three times per day for optimal immune health. (And keep filling up on vitamin C-rich foods—like red peppers and dark leafy green vegetables—for good measure.)
- Zinc. Zinc is vitally important to the integrity of your immune cells. You can boost your zinc intake with red meat, seafood, nuts and eggs. But I also always recommend a daily dose of at least 30 mg per day.
- Coenzyme-Q10. This nutrient helps fuel your cells. And it’s also essential for cell-to-cell communication—which, as I mentioned before, is the most critical part of functional immunity. You should be taking 100 mg to 600 mg per day, depending on the nature of your condition.
[END SIDEBAR 1]
Four key supplements for added UTI defense
I outlined my general immune support protocol on page X—which should always be your first step in preventing infections of any kind. But there are a few more nutritional supplements I recommend to patients struggling with frequent UTIs in particular:
- Cranberry extract. This is the one of the oldest, most reliable, and most researched solutions for urinary tract health in the book. Cranberry earned this distinction due to its abundance of A-type proanthocyanidin (PAC)—a compound that keeps bacteria from sticking to the walls of your bladder. In fact, studies show that daily intake can cut your risk of UTI by nearly 40 percent. So if you have struggled in the past with UTI’s, I recommend adding this to your daily regimen, or take this supplement when you feel symptoms coming on. Capsules are obviously preferable to juice—I typically recommend 400 mg, twice per day.6
- D-mannose. This is a sugar related to glucose—and one of the few instances where sugar is actually good for you. D-mannose is a component of certain fruits—particularly berries—that works much like cranberry extract to keep bacteria from adhering to your urinary tract. And it’s powerful stuff: One trial showed that 2 grams of D-mannose powder mixed in 200 ml of water daily worked as well as Macrobid, a brand name antibiotic, in preventing infection among women with recurrent UTIs.7
- Probiotics. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. The best way to fight bad bacteria is by loading up on the good ones. And as I explained earlier, a healthy microbiome also plays a key role in your body’s natural defenses against urinary tract infection. You should be taking a high-quality probiotic like Dr. Ohhira’s every day already. But if you’re not, it’s time to start.
- Uva Ursi. This is a traditional herb used for bladder and urinary tract health—and it’s especially beneficial in the earliest stages of an acute UTI.8 I recommend 500 mg, twice per day when you feel symptoms coming on.
To be clear, these are not substitutes for drug treatment when you’re dealing with a full-blown infection—and obviously, you should follow your doctor’s lead. Because as I mentioned above, untreated UTIs can cause very serious complications.
But this targeted regimen will give your urinary tract the extra support it needs to fight off harmful bacteria on its own—effectively stopping infections before they take hold. And in a world where you can no longer count on antibiotics to save you, it could well be your best—and only—defense.
[SIDEBAR 2 ENDS]
- McGann P, et al. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2016 Jun 20;60(7):4420-1.
- Mediavilla JR, et al. MBio. 2016 Aug 30;7(4).
- Pease AM, et al. BMJ. 2017 May 3;357:j1680.
- Hooton TM, et al. Abstract LB-7. Presented at: IDWeek; Oct. 4-8, 2017; San Diego.
- Shields-Cutler RR, et al. J Biol Chem. 2015 Jun 26;290(26):15949-60.
- Wang CH et al. Arch Intern Med. 2012 Jul 9;172(13):988-96.
- Domenici L, et al. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2016 Jul;20(13):2920-5.
- Head KA. Altern Med Rev. 2008 Sep;13(3):227-44.