Are you the type to carry antibacterial hand wash in your car, purse, or pocket? Do you wipe down the cart at your grocery store with those complimentary wipes? While you might believe you are practicing safety and avoiding germs, you could be doing more harm than good.
If you are over the age of 20, you likely remember a time before these things were commonplace – where children played ball with other children without using alcohol-spray in between catches, and where kids actually played in the dirt without a parent losing their temper. We exchanged germs freely, and as far as I remember, we were all okay.
Now, however, things are different.
Americans spend billions of dollars on soap each year. I’m not advocating we all stop washing, but we are also spending billions on antibacterial chemicals—something we likely don’t really need. As late as 1993, there were only a few dozen antibacterial products available to consumers. Now, there are well over 10,000.
Are we healthier now? Are these products somehow keeping us safe? Not hardly. As a matter of fact, they are helping to create super-germs and may actually be weakening our immune systems.
1. Creating Super-Germs
Scientists call it “selection,” where germs that survive an antibacterial slathering get stronger and reproduce. These super-germs don’t die when you wash your hands or use an antibacterial gel, they become resistant to all of the germ-killers and they mutate to become even stronger. It sounds like science fiction, but it’s true.
Some research even shows that these bacterium are becoming resistant to antibiotics. These death-defying germs get stronger and actually grow faster than those who succumb to the anti-bacterial agents. In a way, we are sort of speeding germ-evolution along, helping these little guys get stronger and stronger by giving them progressively stronger chemicals to beat.
2. Triclosan and Other Harmful Chemicals
Triclosan is found in cleaning agents and soap, often those touting an anti-bacterial label. It is added to reduce bacterial contamination, but while the FDA says triclosan dangers aren’t at all a threat, they admit that some valuable studies have linked it with several different problems.
Researchers in one study found that the popular chemical triclosan is tied to muscle function impairments in humans, mice, and fish. Exposure could eventually contribute to heart disease and heart failure because of reduced contractions in cardiac and skeletal muscles—unsettling news given the chemical’s growing prevalence since the 1970s.
3. Soap and Water Works
So, what’s the solution? It isn’t a plastic bubble or gloves. It’s far simpler. When your hands are dirty, wash them—not with some super-power antibacterial germ-annihilator, but with soap and water. Eat healthy foods to build your immune system and combat contagious illnesses; don’t rely on topical chemicals to do it for you.
The human body is an amazing machine when we allow it to function normally. It’s when we try to improve upon it with chemicals and lab-created solutions that we actually end up doing far more harm. While sneezing in the face of your children to build their immune system may be a bit over the top, it wouldn’t be extreme to allow them some contact with germs in the outside world.
After all, the germs are there no matter what you do, you might as well encourage resistance to them from the inside (through diet) rather than the outside (through chemicals).
Additional immune boosters include: garlic and onion, elderberry, Vitamin D3, physical activity, and Vitamin C.