Getting Sick From No Germs – How Oversanitation Is Hurting Us
We’re told to constantly wash our hands growing up – wash before dinner, wash after we use the restroom, and wash after we pet the dog. Many other countless times our parents are urging us to be cleaner, asking us to shower more often and keep a clean and dust free room. As adults, some of us have taken those habits to the extreme, avoiding germs like the plague. Often called germaphobes, these individuals are constantly afraid that germs will make them sick, so they aim to live as sterile of a life as possible. (1)
But it’s not just those afraid of germs who are suffering the consequences of being removed from the world’s natural bacteria. Everywhere we look, hand sanitizer is sitting on counters and our homes are filled with strong cleansers that are designed to wipe away every trace of dirt. While certain germs are in fact harmful, are we taking cleanliness to the extreme in a way that’s hurting us? Despite the fact that our bodies have developed to survive in today’s current conditions, are we taking the appropriate measures to ensure our health?
We Are Made Of Germs
More specifically, our bodies are filled with good bacteria, and these cells actually far outnumber the fat and muscle cells inside of us. In fact, this good bacteria creates an entire organism in itself called the microbiome, which is responsible for the health of our immune system. (2) A large portion of these cells reside in our gut, so it’s imperative that it stays balanced and healthy in order to promote health in the rest of our bodies.
If our microbiome is essentially out of whack, it can create a host of problems from pituitary issues to thyroid symptoms and more. Before we delve into more about germs, take a few moments to review the services we offer at Burlison Clinic to help restore health and balance to your body. As with any medical treatment, we recommend that any changes you make to your lifestyle should first be discussed with a functional medicine specialist.
So, what happens if we avoid germs like the plague and live in an oversantized environment? The results are actually quite shocking and are more detrimental to our health than many might realize.
The Effects Of Being Too Clean
It would make sense that if we become a cleaner society that illness rates would decrease, but what the medical community has found is quite the opposite. Wiping out too many germs has had some of the following effects on our health:
- Over 25 million people in the US alone deal with asthma and allergies, even though we have more ways of eliminating dirt, dust, and other triggers. (3)
- Oversanitation can contribute to a plethora of digestive problems, including leaky gut, where our intestinal environment doesn’t have enough good bacteria for it to function properly.
- Taking antibiotics can have a dramatic effect on the health of our microbiome. It’s been shown that one round of antibiotics can wipe out good bacteria for up to one year. (4)
- There’s even a term for what happens when we try to stay too clean: the hygiene hypothesis. Children who aren’t exposed to bacteria early on have a more difficult time resisting disease later in life. (5)
- Gut health is strongly linked to our resistance to germs, so if we don’t have enough positive processes happening in our intestines, our bodies don’t know how to handle invaders who attack. This can lead to a host of autoimmune diseases.
Using Bacteria To Boost Health
Researchers have been working long and hard to learn more about our bodies and how they function. Through advancements in the Human Genome Project, we’ve been able to uncover the roles of the microbiome and learn about how various bacteria affect our bodies in both good and bad ways. (6)
Regular exposure to bacteria is what actually helps to keep us strong and healthy, according to research conducted at Loyola University Health System. (7) They’ve discovered that mice kept in sterile environments had a harder time fighting off germs than mice that were raised in less sterile, yet still healthy, environments.
When humans are encouraged to wash their hands exceptionally often, aren’t allowed to play in the dirt as children, and live in an overly sterile world, their immune systems are poorly developed. When invading bacteria show up, their bodies don’t know how to react, and T cells are sent to fight the foreign bodies. What ends up occurring is that these T cells are linked to autoimmune diseases that eventually take an even greater toll on our health. (8) Not only does the bad bacteria get wiped out, but the good bacteria ends up dying too.
Building A Stronger Immune System
If you’ve always gotten sick even from a young age, it’s not too late to build a stronger immune system. That doesn’t mean you need to start rolling around in mud puddles, but there are some very easy and safe ways for your body to begin rebuilding the good bacteria inside:
- Get outside: Nature is a great place to begin your exposure to germs, mold, and bacteria. As an added bonus, you’ll get a good dose of the all-important Vitamin D.
- Eat probiotics: Foods rich in good bacteria can help to replenish your microbiome and can contribute to a healthy gut. (9) Try integrating yogurt, kefir, kombucha, or sauerkraut for a boost of these healthful nutrients.
- Skip the scrubbing: As long as you’re buying local organic produce, you don’t need to worry about washing your fruit and vegetables to death. Keeping a little of nature’s bacteria on there will help to promote a stronger immune system.
- Try local honey: A trusted remedy for helping with seasonal allergies, eating local honey will help your body acclimate to the bacteria in your area. (10)
The Number One Cause Of A Weak Immune System
While we mentioned it briefly, there’s a huge factor that plays into our oversantized world that needs to be addressed: antibiotics. Although these medicines were once crucial to the health of our society when dealing with severe illness, prescription drugs are now offered for nearly every minor ailment out there.
In fact, both adults and children are becoming so conditioned to take antibiotics that germs are now developing a resistance, which is considered to be a significant health concern worldwide. (11) Our initial reaction when we get sick is to take a pill to cure it, and the sophisticated germs we’re attacking have developed and changed so that the current drugs do not affect them.
While antibiotics can certainly be helpful for some ailments, it’s important to remember that boosting your immune system naturally can be one of the best defenses against getting sick.
Whether you’re struggling with always coming down with a cold, digestive issues, or a general feeling of being unwell, there’s a good chance that your microbiome needs some attention. In addition to implementing some of the helpful tips we’ve mentioned, the approach used at the Burlison Clinic works to restore your health from the inside out.
If you’re interested in learning more about the services we offer and how to become a healthier you, contact us today for an appointment.
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