12.05.2019 •

7 Ways to Reduce Antibiotic Use

Antibiotics are vital medications. They have performed wonders in treating bacterial infections, preventing the spread of disease, and minimizing the complications of illness. But overuse and misuse of these drugs have led to antibiotic resistance—a serious global health problem that is degrading the effectiveness of these medications.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a global action plan to address the growing issue of antibiotic resistance, and as part of this initiative, has dedicated a week in November to World Antibiotics Awareness Week. No matter what the date is today, limiting antibiotic use to maintain their effectiveness is something to keep in mind year-round!

​Preventing infectious diseases

Of course, no one wants to get sick in the first place. In order to limit your use of antibiotics, the “ounce of prevention” adage really does hold true. With some healthy proactive habits, you can help keep bacteria and viruses at bay. And, while you are still likely to get sick on occasion, the fewer, the better.

Since bacteria and viruses can easily be spread from one person to another—especially during the cold and flu season—follow these steps to help you stave off illness.

First, let’s cover the stuff you’ve probably been told a hundred times over, but it’s still important to re-iterate.

​Sing Happy Birthday.

What?! Yes, twice while washing your hands. Doing so will mean that you’ll wash your hands long enough (at least 20 seconds) to remove germs. Washing your hands is the single most important thing you can do to prevent catching and spreading infection.

Don’t pick your nose. Made you read this one too, didn’t I? Also, avoid touching your face, in general. Most of us touch our faces several times a day. Unfortunately, that is how bacteria can spread throughout your body. If your hands are carrying pathogens, they can enter your body through contact with your eyes, nose, and mouth. So, whenever possible, avoid direct contact with your face.

​Be dense.

Well, not you, but make sure your food is nutrient-dense. It cannot be overstated that eating healthy is key to good health and a strong immune system. Make your plate colourful by including vegetables that are green, orange, red, and yellow. This is one way to ensure you are getting plenty of antioxidants through the plant phytonutrients (i.e. nutrients from plants). Some white or beige foods are also healthy, like cauliflower, daikon radish, and mushrooms.

​Saw logs.

What I mean is, get plenty of sleep. When you are at rest, your body can do its repair. Have you noticed that you’re more likely to get sick when you’re short on sleep? It’s not a coincidence.

​Be like a good restaurant that wants to avoid getting sued.

The first rule in the restaurant business is (or at least should be), “don’t make your customers sick” Cook, prepare, and store your food properly. Food can be a major source of dangerous microorganisms. Once they get into your system, they can multiply and cause illness. To prevent illness, properly clean your food preparation areas, wash your hands before and after you handle food, and store food at appropriate temperatures.

​Japanese red reishi mushroom to support a healthy immune system

Now on to the piece you may not have known but will be glad to find out.

Reishi mushroom is known the world over for its power to support the immune system, amongst other things. Hailed as “The King of Mushrooms,” this miracle fungus has been used in Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years—and for a host of great reasons.

While it is classified in the Chinese herbal materia medica as calming the nervous system (which it can) to address insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, and poor memory, it is also used to treat lung weakness and low energy. As such, it can be used as a remedy for Lung energy weakness, including symptoms of coughing and wheezing. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Lung energy weakness can result in poorly regulated immune function, meaning you might get sick often or struggle with an immune system disorder.

Reishi mushrooms have more recently been studied for their antimicrobial activity. Without going into the biochemical details, reishi mushrooms—when you include the fruiting bodies (the cap and stem, not just the mycelium root-like structure)—contain a wide array of compounds like terpenes, terpenoids, and quinones that have natural antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-parasitic effects. The polysaccharides in both the fruiting body and the mycelium also provide immune system support.

That combination of supporting a healthy body and immune system along with fighting off infection makes Japanese red reishi a powerful ally to take through the cold and flu season so that you can reduce the chance that you’ll need to take antibiotics. Just make sure you get the whole mushroom, fruiting body included.


Dr. Melissa Carr is a registered Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine with a B.Sc. in Kinesiology. In practice since 2001, Dr. Carr has a passion for sharing health information. She has been a nutrition instructor and a health consultant, lecturer, and writer for 24 Hours Vancouver newspaper, Fraser Health Authority, UBC, and the David Suzuki Foundation, amongst others.