Is cleaning everything with antibacterial soap such a good idea?
We live in a world where we are obsessed with cleanliness and hygiene. We have antibacterial hand wash by the sink, antibacterial wipes to clean the kids and worktops, antibacterial hand gel to clean our hands before food and after we touch anything, you can even get antibacterial washing powder for your clothes. So why are we obsessed with antibacterial stuff? Because germs are bad and make you ill, right?!
Are germs bad for you?
No matter how hard you try, germs are everywhere. It is commonly estimated that at any one time you have 10x more bacterial cells within your body than you have human cells! There are thought to be almost 200 different species on your skin. If you do kill any germs with antibacterial gel then any left behind are able to double their numbers within 20 minutes, and in 8 hours create almost 1 million new germs. We are surrounded by them constantly, so why aren’t we ill?
Firstly, it’s important to point out that we need germs, and they need us (although they’re not fussy about which human they get). Germs help us digest our food and break down tougher foods like plant fibers. They synthesise essential vitamins in our gut. They assist with the regulation of our serotonin levels, which make us happy. They turn wine into vinegar and milk into cheese and yogurt – not essential for life but for important for tasty food. And most importantly of all they regulate our immune systems.
It has been found by Gerald Callahan of Colorado State University that exposure to bacteria, both the harmless and harmful ones, is what lays the foundations for how well the immune system responds to pathogenic invaders in later life. On that note, research has shown that children who are sheltered from bacteria (ie excessive use of antibacterial gels and not allowed to share toys with other kids) have a higher chance of developing asthma and allergies.
What makes us ill?
So germs have heaps of benefits, but we still get ill occasionally, or a lot in some cases. And here the problem lies with the human cells and not the bacterial cells. Germs, we now know, are always present and have the ability to make us ill, but only if our body allows it. We live in balance with germs and the relationship is very much symbiotic, however when our immune system weakens the germs take advantage and we can end up feeling rotten.
What weakens our immune system?
Our immune system is weakened by many things. These include stress, eating highly processed and sugary foods/drinks, lack of sleep, cigarettes and alcohol, lack of exercise and, interestingly, antibiotics and cold and flu medication. So, the irony is that the medication we take to help us feel better is actually destroying the millions of good bacteria that help our body to fight any illness naturally and create a stronger immune system to fight future attacks. Have you ever taken a course of antibiotics and got a cold after? The reason is because the antibiotics massively weaken your immune system by destroying millions of bacteria and through a weakened immune system you more easily get a cold.
So should we use antibacterials at all?
So clearly there are germs out there that are great for you, however it goes without saying there are also germs that can make you very ill, strong immune system or not. So it comes down to balance. Don’t cover yourself and everything you’ll ever touch in antibacterial spray killing your good germs and any chance of immunity; however if you’ve been to a public lavatory and are about to eat then you may want to antibac your hands. The important thing is not to see germs as the enemy and try and destroy every one you come across. Our bodies are designed to meet germs, not avoid them. For instance, when you are born your gut has very little bacterial culture and a baby’s first exposure to germs is from the usual excrement the mother gives birth to at the same time as the baby. This exposure lays the foundations for a future healthy gut and immune system. This is thought to be one of the side effects of caesarean born children.
Using antibacterial stuff actually kills the very microbes that help strengthen your immune system, which is clearly counter intuitive. So consider the natural approach more favourably. Eat well, exercise, maintain a positive outlook, avoid getting stressed, don’t be afraid of coming into contact with other humans and their stuff (the ones you know), don’t so easily grab antibiotics and medication when you feel unwell and eat probiotics to give a boost of the good medication.
And importantly, have a well Chiropractically adjusted spine. The best way for you to fight germs is from the inside out, and Chiropractic works from the inside out by making sure your nervous system is functioning at its optimum. Your body is beautifully designed to combat the bad germs in the world, and sometimes that means having a runny nose. Too often we pump ourselves with medication to stop the symptoms (high temperature for example) when what we are really doing is stopping the body from doing what it does best. And by best I mean restoring harmony between the germs and our body.
So in a nutshell, embrace and love germs. The best vaccination is the one your body naturally makes, so get down and dirty with them and trust and allow your body to do what it does best. We’ve all heard of pox parties…