My green choices

Do we need the Products that scream “Germ-free”?

Reducing our usage of products or buying them is not an easy task. The products are marketed in such a way as if it is the most important thing to buy. They make us believe without them we might be taking big risks with our health and beauty.

Today I am going to talk only about the body care products that are labeled germicide the list includes soaps, hand wash, shampoos, lotions, sanitizers, sanitary pads, toothpaste, mouthwash and hand wipes. The markets are flooded with products that say 100% Germ protection, kills all the germs in 6 seconds, maximum protection from germs and anti-bacterial effect.

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Being a microbiologist I need to tell you that these type of items are required either for treating an infection or for the protection from infectious agents. This is necessary for the people who work in medical facilities as they are exposed to deadly organisms on daily basis or the people who live in a unhygienic place.

A purpose of any regular soap or shampoo that we all use should be just to remove the dead cells and clean the surface by removing bacteria. This type of cleaning is more than enough for us to have a hygienic life. But day by day we are getting obsessed with such products.

We need to understand that the products which are antibacterial are doing more harm than just cleaning us. They kill the natural bacterial flora (population of bacteria in a particular region) that resides in/on our body.

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It’s true that micro-organisms are present everywhere and they cause diseases in humans as well as in animals. But we need to understand that not all the bacteria cause disease. Out of millions and trillions of bacteria, only some are disease-causing and others are harmless. Out of these harmless populations, many are useful to us.

Recent studies show that the way we have an ecosystem that consists of various living organisms (flora and fauna of a particular place), together making a balanced eco-system in the similar way we have micro-biome i.e the group of microorganisms on and in our body that functions in a very balanced way. They protect us, control certain functions and regulate many of our bodies mechanisms.

Here are few examples –

  1. Bacteria that live in our gut help in the digestions of complex sugar such as lactose from milk. They breakdown such complex substance which we cannot.
  2. These gut bacteria also help to protect our digestive lining from getting attacked by the harmful bacteria.
  3.  Similarly, on the skin, we have normal flora that us protects our skin from getting invaded by disease-causing bacteria.
  4. Recent studies show that damage to natural microbiome of the body would lead to many types of diseases including type-2 diabetes.

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Any anti-bacterial product is designed to kill most of the bacteria. They are not targeted to any particular species of bacteria. This creates an imbalance of normal flora thus, exposing our body to disease-causing microorganisms invasions. Also, prolonged use of antibacterial products can give rise to drug-resistant micro-organisms (which are more deadly as no previous medicine will work on it). It is best to use the regular soaps which would only wash off the bacteria and not kill it, this will reduce any chance of development of drug resistance bacteria.

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Don’t believe me?, Do you know why a doctor prescribes antacid with antibiotics or any other powerful drug? or why are there products like “Yakult” (probiotics) coming to market saying eat healthy bacteria to restore your gut bacterial population?

The antibiotics will kill most of your gut flora which will cause digestive troubles as pointed above. Of course, we need antibiotic to treat infections but we don’t need to use the other anti-bacterial products so often. Just washing your hands in the clean water nd using a lathering soap once in while is more than enough for our good hygienic practice.

The consumer market works mostly by creating fear in the minds of the people and often misleads people in buying unwanted things.

One can use a sanitizer if necessary in the following cases:-

  • During the outbreak of infectious disease.
  • When traveling to places where you might not get clean water.
  • Visiting hospitals.
  • While working in a unhygienic environment.

So it is time to reduce our shopping list by striking out products that say antibacterial.

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Note: The major ingredient in all these antibacterial products is TRICLOSAN which is an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent.

Read more here:

  1.  Triclosan in personal care products
  2. Triclosan – is it safe?

also, check out the following links:

  1. You may be damaging your body’s ecosystem and not know it
  2. The microbiome and disease
  3. Research paper from NCBI on effects of antibiotics on microbiome
  4. 5 hidden dangers of hand sanitizer

If you want to know how the bacteria becomes drug resistant then check out this link Superbugs

I hope you find this article useful.

-Pooja Navale

 

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