By Dr. Seth LaFlamme
I happen to be a huge George Carlin fan. For those of you who don’t know, his language can be quite blue, and he is known for his famous “7 Things You Can’t Say on Television” bit. After I became a chiropractor, I gained a new appreciation for his “Fear of Germs” routine. He uses very salty language and doesn’t pull any punches, so just be forewarned if you decide to YouTube it.
Even in a time where most people are aware of probiotics (beneficial bacteria that help gut and immune function), we still seem to waging an obsessive-compulsive war on germs. I love how George puts it: “…everybody’s running around scrubbing this and spraying that and overcooking their food and repeatedly washing their hands trying to avoid all contact with germs.” The mental image I get is a Woody Allen type character with a face mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer and a little travel packet of sani-wipes for doorknobs.
Could it be that we need to relax just a bit? Let’s get cozy with germs for minute.
-Bacteria are an essential part of digestion, especially Lactobacillus. They help us break down and absorb foods.
-Bacteria live in you, on you, all over you. In fact, there are ten times as many bacteria that call you home as there are your own cells. Ten times.
-These bacteria that coexist with you are an important part of your immune system, forming a sort of barrier that keeps harmful invaders out.
-The strongest form of immunity comes from exposure and beating an infection.
-There is a growing body of evidence that keeping kids too clean can harm their future health…that dirt and germs can actually protect against disease.
Look this stuff up. A simple Google search with bring up sources like the New York Times, NBC News and PubMed. I’m not just talking crazy here.
Yet, I think we’ve fallen prey to hyped up marketing efforts to sell us chocolate scented hand sanitizer, bleach cleaners of all types, wipes, swabs, sprays and more. And of course, there are the ever strengthening newer antibiotics—you know, to fight the superbugs we created by overusing the old ones. Alexander Fleming, in his Nobel prize speech for his accomplishment with penicillin predicted the very state we’re in. And it’s not just antibiotics that create stronger and stronger infectious agents, but all the “anti bacterial” chemical agents we use all the time. Sometimes we need this stuff, but not on a constant basis. Let’s talk some sense.
You just chopped up a package of grocery store bought conventional chicken. Should you wash the counter? You bet! Do you need super duper disinfectant to do it? No! Vinegar will do the trick.
You just were out gardening and got your hands dirty. You notice the year’s first ripe cherry tomato. Do you run inside, scrub your hands and wash the tomato? No! Is there bacteria on it? You can count on it, but the bacteria in dirt is good for you! Wipe your hands off and eat the darned tomato. Feel you immune muscles flexing…it feels good.
You shake hands with someone who’s obviously under the weather. While getting sick is good for you by exercising your immune system to keep it in good working order, you don’t want more than your fair share. Do you wash your hands with antibacterial soap and then douse them in sanitizer? If you want to breed the next generation of indestructible mega bugs, then go right ahead. However, washing your hands with good ol’ plain-jane soap is all that’s needed. Physical removal works just fine.
If we just calm down a little bit and put down that spray can, perhaps we’ll all have more competent well-oiled immune systems, and learn to make friends with the little one-celled beasties that have been given an overly bad rap.
There’s so much to this story that a little blog post doesn’t begin to cover it all. But I hope it makes you think, and look around. Do some digging….literally!
Here, let me get you started with the web search. Enjoy: https://www.google.com/search?biw=1211&bih=867&ei=c5S7Wq-FFYS2sAWujZigBA&q=health+benefits+of+exposure+to+germs&oq=health+benefits+of+exposure+to+germs&gs_l=psy-ab.3..33i22i29i30k1.1743755.1760556.0.17616220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168.4545.26j20.47.0....0...1c.1.64.psy-ab..3.75.4620.6..0j0i131k1j0i131i46k1j46i131k1j35i39k1j0i67k1j0i20i263k1j0i22i30k1j0i10k1.101.jx1a2dtFAn4
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