It’s hard to ignore the killer bug outbreak going on in Germany right now. So far, 35 people have died, and officials are calling it the worst outbreak in history. The deadly form of bacteria (EHEC, or enterohaemorrhagic E. coli) has also sickened 3,255 people in 14 different European countries, plus the U.S. and Canada.
The World Health Organization reports that 812 people have experienced a type of kidney failure called HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome)——21 of whom have died, and 100 more who will either need an organ transplant or will need to be on dialysis for the rest of their lives.
Although this particular epidemic has pretty much be contained in Germany, the U.S. has certainly had its fair share of lethal outbreaks. In fact, the past few years have brought a host of harmful bacteria:
- 2010 – 500 million eggs were recalled after 2,000 people became sick from dangerous levels of Salmonella.
- 2009 – 22,500 people were sickened——and nine died——from poisonous peanut butter.
- 2008 – There were at least 1,442 cases of salmonellosis food poisoning, 203 hospitalizations, and one death——and officials still aren’t exactly sure what caused it.
With all of these deadly bugs crawling around, your initial reaction might be to eradicate all bacteria in some sort of nuclear bacterial holocaust. I can hardly blame you. But I can guarantee you that ultimately, trying to rid the world of all bacteria is...
One of the most devastating “healthy” things you can do
One way or another, America’s War on Bacteria is destined to fail. For one thing, bacteria outnumber the cells in your body 10 to 1. But beyond that, you need bacteria——both good and bad——in order for your body to function properly.
“Good” bacteria are responsible for everything from eating trash to making soil fertile to breaking down the food we eat into useful nutrients. You couldn’t digest the food you eat without bacteria.
In addition to that, early exposure to “bad” bacteria builds a healthy immune system. Ever noticed that the more sterile our environment has become, the sicker our kids have gotten? Asthma, allergies, autoimmune disorders——all of these modern diseases and more are on the rise, and plenty of people blame the overuse of antibacterial everything. When kids aren’t exposed to harmful bacteria, their bodies don’t make antibodies that they need to help fight off foreign invaders and to minimize allergies.
That’s why the War on Bacteria is a lose-lose situation . Even if we win, we lose .
Despite this, you can hardly find a soap or detergent these days that doesn’t have an “antibacterial” label slapped on the front. Talk about a bad idea. As I said, you need bacteria, and antibacterial agents don’t discriminate against the good kind and the bad. But beyond that, the very antibacterial agent that’s in soaps and detergents is nothing more than...
The Trojan horse of cleaning agents
Hidden in your soaps and detergents is an antibacterial agent that’s doing a whole lot more than killing off common bacteria. It’s also sucking your endocrine system dry and paving the way for powerful new bacteria——and when it gets in the water, it kills the fish, too.
It’s called triclosan. But this “clean hands” ingredient isn’t a soap. It’s a pesticide .
Ironic, don’t you think? The very thing you’re using (and paying more for!) to eliminate harmful bacteria is actually a harmful toxin itself.
Don’t expect it to fall from grace anytime soon, either. The feds have been debating over this chemical for almost four decades, and they have yet to come up with any sort of regulation for it. In the meantime, the antibacterial business has boomed, and this antibacterial ingredient has turned up in everything from clothing to cutting boards. It might even be in YOU. That’s right... some estimates show that this pesticide is in the urine of 75 percent of the population.
Think about THAT the next time you wash your hands before dinner.
But when it comes right down to it, the really harmful bacteria——e.coli, salmonella, and listeria——are food-borne, and you can’t wash your food in triclosan. So what’s the point?
One more reason bacteria is good for you
Ever been told to “listen to your gut?”
As it turns out, there’s more to that statement than meets the eye. In the latest study that proves that a certain amount of bacteria is good for you, researchers showed the important effects gut bacteria can have on your brain.
In a study published in Neurogastroenterology & Motility , researchers examined mice that had been kept in a germ-free environment from a young age. They found that the mice’s brain activity varied based on their microbe levels. Not only that, but the mice that had been exposed to the least amount of bacteria seemed to have the greatest amount of “risky behavior.”
Although it’s tough to say exactly how this would correspond with humans, what is clear is that there’s a bacterial loop between your belly and your brain, and that it influences your behavioral development.
Maybe that explains a recent article published in the Archives of General Psychiatry last year, which found that bacteria should actually be considered as at treatment for depression.
The idea that the presence of gut bacteria could influence brain development shouldn’t sound like such a stretch. After all, we already know that your brain and your belly are connected by the vagus nerve. It’s what signals your brain when you’re hungry or full.
Here’s what to do:
- Stop using antibacterial soaps . Don’t fall for the hype. Studies have shown time and again that antibacterial soaps are no better than the plain old soap your parents and grandparents and their grandparents used. Common sense should tell you that. After all, we grew up without the antibacterial boloney, and we didn’t face anything like the bacterial threat running rampant today. What’s more, the overuse of these soaps is helping to create drug-resistant superbugs... and boy do we overuse them: Triclosan residue is believed to be on 75 percent of Americans over the age of 6. So do yourself and the rest of us a favor: Keep clean... but stick to plain old soap.
- Take a good probiotic. Remember, your intestines need good bacteria in order to help you break down your food and absorb the nutrients. They’re also your first line of defense against harmful invaders. A healthy gut actually has over three pounds of these critters.
- Rinse your fresh food in hydrogen peroxide . You can’t wash your food in triclosan, but you can— and should —be rinsing your fruits and veggies in hydrogen peroxide. Use the drug-store/supermarket variety, which contains 3 percent. Soak the fruits and vegetables for 20 minutes (scrub vegetables, such as potatoes, with a brush and then do the soak), rinse, and cook. Cooked or raw, the food will not taste like peroxide. If you store all fresh meats in the freezer for 24 hours, any parasites will be killed. Although the presence of parasites is very rare in U.S. meat, better safe than sorry.