The Way to BE

Antibiotic Resistance: Don't Flush Your Drugs!

What you flush down the toilet can end up your drinking water.

Out-dated pharmaceuticals or prescription medicine that you no longer need can be tricky to get rid of. If you throw pharmaceuticals away in the trash, they could end up in the hands of a child or have dire consequences if consumed by a pet, which is why most people have a tendency to flush them down the toilet.

In 2002, a US Geological Survey found pharmaceuticals in 80% of the 139 US streams that they sampled. This survey implies drug residue circulating freely through groundwater, lakes, and rivers. (1)

In recent years, several universities have been looking at how wastewater generates antibiotic resistant bacteria.

That's right: expired antibiotics or antibiotics that were never finished and then flushed away are also ending up in wastewater and having drastic consequences. Other sources of antibiotics in water are from manufacturing facilities and sewage.

Many people know that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are partially a product of the agricultural and farming business: the heavy-handed use of antibiotics with livestock controls an infectious pathogen that could spread easily in tight quarters. Doctors can also be heavy-handed with their pen when prescribing antibiotics to patients.

What happens? Pathogenic bacteria, rather than completely die out, simply move in accordance with nature and develop a resistance to the offending agent.

When an assortment of antibiotics ends up in water where bacteria live, researchers have found that the bacteria develop a genetic resistance.

This genetic resistance is to all of the pharmaceutical antibiotics present, namely fluoroquinolones, amninoglycosides, and sulfonilamides. Genetic resistance to multiple classes of antibiotics accounted for nearly 2% of the DNA reviewed. (2)

While the bacteria observed in the study were not pathogenic, it has been found that resistant factors spread easily among bacteria once one species has acquired it. (3)

Antibiotic-resistant pathogens are a big deal.

So big that the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) published an editorial about this very subject. It was written by Dr. James Hughes, a professor of global health and medicine at Emory University and the former director of the National Center for Infectious Disease at the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

In the editorial, Hughes makes it very clear that we are running out of antibiotics.

"Many medical advances that physicians and patients take for granted - including cancer treatment, surgery, transplantation, and neonatal care - are endangered by increasing antibiotic resistance and a distressing decline in the antibiotic research and development pipeline."

Think it's a good idea to flush your antibiotics when they expire? Think again! Flushing any medication risks contamination of our drinking water.

Antibiotics aren't the big money-makers anymore.

Two factors are at play: the first, bacteria are getting smart. The second, drug companies are losing interest in funding research and developing antibiotic products. According to Hughes, "as much as 50% of antibiotic use in human medicine is either unnecessary or inappropriate across all types of health care settings."

This leads to drug-resistant microbes and out-of-date drugs. Drugs companies are losing interest because there is more money in manufacturing a drug that meets long-term consumer demand and that does not need to be constantly reinvented.

Hughes makes a serious plea that consumers and doctors act responsibly, stating that antibiotic resistance is "a growing global public health threat." Several steps are being taken to raise awareness. Antibiotic resistance, for example, is the theme for World Health Day in April 2011. (4)

In the proper situation, antibiotic use is a resource.

While Body Ecology favors the use of probiotics and naturally strengthening the immune system, antibiotic use can be a very formidable weapon and can save lives when used judiciously. In order to preserve the power of this very potent therapeutic method, it is vital that we take steps to nourish our inner ecosystem.

How to Preserve and Restore Your Inner Ecosystem:

  • Keep antibiotic use to a minimum, and if used at all, use only when absolutely necessary.

Remember, many physicians have a tendency to overprescribe antibiotic medication. Inform your physician about what you know and work together, finding a treatment that works best for you. Some ways to fight common infections: try oregano oil, increase the amount of probiotic foods and probiotic beverages that you consume, and if you haven't already, explore Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Several Chinese medicinal formulas are extremely effective at treating a wide range of infectious conditions without generating genetic resistance.

  • Reduce, limit, or completely eliminate your consumption of agricultural animals and their products that have been treated with antibiotics.

The choices that you make matter. Choosing to pull your support from industries that use antibiotics in food products is taking care of your body and the environment that surrounds you.

  • Choose organic.

Agricultural produce that has been treated with pesticides in production facilities, such as in ethanol production, that take the same measures, all contribute to "superbugs." (5)

  • Always support your body by constantly giving it the materials that it needs for a healthy immune response.

This means eat your greens, enjoy fermented foods, and eliminate your stress response - even if you cannot eliminate the stress! Let's face it. Life will always have ups and downs, as well as harmful bacteria and beneficial bacteria. What matters most is our response.

Never flush antibiotics, or any medication for that matter, down the toilet.

This past September, the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) held the nation's first prescription drug "take-back" day in an effort to reduce unlawful drug use and potential hazards to the environment. This was a great way to safely dispose of unneeded medication, and it is likely we will see efforts in the future. (6)

Currently, we are seeing the effects of overuse.

It has been 79 years since the first antibiotic was developed, and while countless lives have been saved, we are still learning how to manage such a powerful therapeutic method.

Balancing and nurturing you inner ecosystem naturally not only builds your immunity and boosts your energy, it is also a proactive step that you can use to reduce antibiotic resistance that is happening on a global level!


Did you know that any prescription medicine that you flush down the toilet could end up in your drinking water? Expired antibiotics are often flushed and culminate in our wastewater to cause serious consequences. This has led to the development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, causing the medical field to begin to run out of effective antibiotic options for treatment.

Antibiotics do have their place for use to protect your health, but it is even more important to proactively preserve your inner ecosystem. Use antibiotics as minimally as possible, reduce your consumption of animal products that have been treated with antibiotics, eat organically, and always support the health of your body with fermented foods and probiotic beverages. Lastly, never, ever flush your medications to contribute to the contamination of our drinking water!



  1. Pharmaceuticals, Hormones, and Other Organic Wastewater Contaminants in U.S. Streams, 1999-2000: A National Reconnaissance. Environ. Sci. Technol., 2002, 36 (6), pp 1202-1211.
  2. Kristiansson E, Fick J, Janzon A et al. 2011 Pyrosequencing of Antibiotic-Contaminated River Sediments Reveals High Levels of Resistance and Gene Transfer Elements. PLoS ONE 6(2): e17038.
  3. McKenna, Maryn. Drug residues and drug resistance in water: not good. SUPERBUG. 2011, Feb 17.
  4. Hughes, James. Preserving the lifesaving power of antimicrobial agents. JAMA. Published online February 22, 2011. doi: 10.1001/jama.2011.279
  5. Olmstead, Julia. Fueling resistance? Antibiotics in ethanol production. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. IATP : Minneapolis, 2009.

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