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Antibacterial v Probiotic - What You Should Know About Cleanliness

Jun 13, 2008
I take a teaspoon of high quality active probiotics every day, and despite being exposed to a particularly nasty stomach bug, which is "going around", I have remained very healthy, unlike the rest of the people I know. Incase you are unsure what I mean by probiotics; they are the good, friendly bacteria we need to keep us well.

Both my elderly parents have been suffering from the sickness and diarrhoea, and as I write this, my dad is in an isolation ward in hospital. He has a dodgy heart and is on medication for various other ailments. Because he has been unable to retain any fluids, his blood pressure kept dropping and he passed out on us twice. The second time I thought he had died.

Apparently, when you get low blood pressure you don't get sufficient oxygen to the heart and this can trigger a heart attack. In view of his medical history, the paramedics took my dad to hospital in an ambulance, and thankfully, he's now recovering.

My mum, on the other hand is still suffering and one of my sisters', who has been helping me look after our parents, has also gone down with it. The last time I rang she was still too weak to get out of bed.

I, on the other hand, am fine, but as I already mentioned, I take a very good probiotic every day. My personal army of friendly bacteria appear to be doing a great job of looking after me, so I have been doing the hospital run.

MRSA is a real concern in hospitals these days and I noticed a considerable amount of dry hand wash bottles around. They were in corridors, at the bottom of the beds, etc., and I thought how convenient they are, and how much time they must save.

However, time is probably one of the main reasons there are so many health problems around, particularly stomach upsets. Hand washing is not what it used to be. Everyone is in a rush.

We are always being advised about the importance of washing our hands, and antibacterial products are usually being promoted as the answer to all our problems.

So, what are Antibacterial Products anyway? Well, here's what I've discovered.

Antibacterial soap is any cleaning product to which active antibacterial ingredients have been added, and most liquid hand and body soaps contain these antibacterial chemicals. Two of the most common are alcohol and triclosan. This is a preservative and can cause allergic reactions, contact dermatitis, causes liver damage in animals, and is toxic by ingestion.

With so many anti bacterial products on the market, some people suggest it is the overuse of antibacterial chemicals, which has resulted in certain bacteria evolving and become more resistant. There is a great variety of bacterium, and the effectiveness of a product against one particular type doesn't ensure the same result on an unrelated type of bacteria.

Actually you can get rid of bacteria with ordinary soap, and according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibacterial soaps are not necessary. They say washing your hands thoroughly with ordinary soap and warm water is one of the most effective ways to ward off infection.

However, if you are not convinced and still feel the need to use antibacterial soaps and cleaners, you need to consider the following:

* The antibacterial components of soaps, usually triclosan or, less commonly, triclocarban, (which apparently can cause photoallergic reactions, convulsions, and possibly cancer over prolonged use), need to be left on a surface for about two minutes in order to work. I don't know many people who are that patient, so the soap is washed off before the antibacterial ingredients can do their job.

* Some scientists think bacteria may develop a resistance to bactericidal agents over time.

* Some bacteria actually benefit us. The normal population of bacteria on our bodies not only eats our sweat, but also helps defend us against truly harmful, invasive bacteria. When you see products which claim to kill ALL bacteria (that means good and bad), you need to ask yourself if that's what you really want, especially when they are killing them with potentially toxic chemicals.

* Many common diseases are viral in nature, and are therefore not prevented by antibacterial products.

Anyway, now I've passed on that bit of information, I'm off to face that nasty old stomach bug again. I'll be okay though - I've taken my probiotics.
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