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Do antibiotics contribute to disability rates?

Social Security disability insurance benefits are intended to replace lost wages for people who are no longer able to work and earn a living as they once did because of an illness, injury or condition. Under the Social Security Administration’s guidelines, the condition must render an individual disabled for 12 months or longer. Although a medical diagnosis is helpful evidence, the SSA’s disability examiners will also want to see documentation of the disability’s impact on an individual’s functional abilities.

Significantly, an illness, injury or condition that is potentially eligible for SSDI benefits may or may not be the result of a work injury. For example, a recent article suggests that disabling conditions may also result from disruptions to the healthy bacteria that reside in all of us. Known as the microbiome, such bacterial cells actually outnumber human cells 10 to one. The human microbiome is believed to play a crucial role in various body functions, as well as resistance to disease.

In that latter regard, a recent book by a researcher suggests a connection between disease and the decreasing microbial diversity in many individuals. Without adequate diversity, an individual may be more susceptible to conditions like allergies, Type 1 diabetes, obesity, and other chronic conditions. An individual’s metabolism might also be affected by changes to the human microbiome.

Notably, the research suggests that the decrease in microbial diversity may be our own doing, resulting from overuse of antibiotics. In one study, for example, even a short-term antibiotic treatment had a noticeable impact on microbial bacteria. Said another way, antibiotics may be killing off the good, healthy bacteria along with the infection-causing bacteria.

Source: The New York Times, “We Are Our Bacteria,” Jane E. Brody, July 14, 2014

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