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More About Antibacterials

I found a fact sheet published on The Better Health Channel (www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au) after publishing my previous post on Triclosan.  One of the points the fact sheet makes is that "most bacteria actually help humans. For example, intestinal bacteria help us to digest food. The ‘good’ bacteria that naturally live on, and inside, our bodies help us stay healthy by keeping the numbers of ‘bad’ disease-causing bacteria under control.  When you use antibacterial or antimicrobial soaps, toothpaste and house cleaning products, good bacteria are also killed. This could be harmful if the ratio of good to bad bacteria is disturbed, and bad bacteria get the upper hand."

Strong immune systems are built just like strong muscles. They have to train – "practice" doing their jobs – so they can do them better.  Just like muscles, immune systems need to practice fighting off undesirable germs to get good at it.  When we take away the training regimen, the immune system’s ability will decline just as a muscle will atrophy. Using antibacterials and antimicrobials when they are unnecessary is essentially taking away the training regimen.  A perfectly suitable hand cleaning can be achieved with just soap and water.  The antibacterials are great if you are visiting a hospital, flying on a plane or using other mass transportation.  Or, if someone in your home is sick with a contagious illness.  Otherwise, normal hygiene habits and regular professional house cleaning will keep germs under control in your home.

Other useful items to consider (from the Better Health fact sheet):

  • evidence suggests that the use of antibacterial and antimicrobial house cleaning products – particularly in combination with the overprescription of antibiotics – may produce strains of multi-resistant organisms
  • antibacterial and antimicrobial cleaning products are no better at eliminating bacteria than cheaper plain soaps, detergents and warm water
  • consumers should avoid using antibacterial and antimicrobial house cleaning products unless they have a specific medical reason and have been advised to do so by their doctor

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