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Antibacterial Nonsense!

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 12.55.13 PM This article reviews how the FDA is now questioning the safety of antibacterial soaps. What do I have to say? Finally!  I have been avoiding antibacterial anything for years.  I have studied bacteria for years.  From my university days when I minored in biology to my nutrition studies where I learned about beneficial bacteria and its impact on our health.  Bacteria has never scared me because I understood its role in our everyday life.  Our bodies are covered with naturally occurring (good) bacteria that actually help guard against invaders such as fungus, viruses and harmful bacteria.  Think of them as the army that stands guard ready to rise up and defend us at a moment’s notice. 

What would happen if we wiped out that army?  We would be invaded by the bad guys and perhaps those bad guys would take over and destroy us.  At the very least something would get damaged.

This is precisely what we do when we use antibacterial products.  Regular soap and water will wash away the ‘bad’ stuff but pretty much leaves the good bacteria relatively unharmed.  Antibacterial soap or products are much less discriminating. They will wipe out the good and bad bacteria (they have also been discovered to disrupt hormones, thyroid function and brain development in children).

Ever hear of ‘super bugs’?  These were thought to develop because of the misuse of antibiotics.  Certain strains of bacteria have built up a resistance to antibiotics forcing researchers to come up with stronger and different antibiotics, same thing is happening in regards to antibacterial soaps.

We are a society obsessed with germs and manufacturers have jumped on board driving more fear into us that we somehow will die of the plague if we don’t dunk our kids in a vat of antibacterial gel several times a day.

Some say our obsession to keep our kids sterile has lead to the increase in food allergies.  Jury is still out on that one but I think there is validity in that statement when you look at the development of the immune system in children.  The first year of life is when the immune system catalogues the good from the bad; creating a kind of library.  Simply put; dirt bad, banana good.  When the immune system is not exposed to the bad, the bad is not filed away for future reference and can create confusion as to what is good and what is bad.  This is a very simplified explanation, I could write many more pages as to the theory of how this works but this gives you an idea of where the thought process came from in regards to antibacterial use and food allergies.

My generation and generations before me didn’t grow up with antibacterial anything.  We washed with soap and water and I can’t remember my mother running after me with a bottle of hand sanitizer making sure my hands were always clean.  I used to pull carrots out of the garden, wipe them on my pants and chow down.  How many parents would go into cardiac arrest if their children did that today?

I agree we need to be aware and not let our kids lick the floor in the grocery store, make sure they are washing their hands on a regular basis (with soap and water) and have them cough into their shirt sleeve, but are we doing them more harm than good by being germ-a-phobic and surrounding them with everything antibacterial?  I think so, but that is just one woman’s opinion.  My house is an antibacterial free zone, always has been, always will be and my kids get sick very infrequently.  Compared to other kids when they were growing up the number of school days they missed because of colds or flu was basically zero.  Broken bones and concussions well that is a whole other blog!

I rarely applaud the FDA about anything but this decision to require companies to prove, antibacterial products are beneficial, for that I am giving them a standing ovation!