Thursday, April 8, 2010

Microbiology and Antioxidants

**Correction to the following post: My friend has not completely sworn off antibacterial products. She sees the need for them in certain situations. I apologize to her and to you for misrepresenting her. 


A close friend of mine is taking Microbiology. They have the great experience of studying and handling germs. Doesn't that sound fun? But I'm told that it's necessary to take this course if you want to become a nurse. So there she is.

Recently the professor assigned them a project. They were to take a certain germ and find out the most effective way to kill it. She tried a number of different substances but discovered that a few essential oils were the most effective antibacterial substances of all those they tested. The best ones were Tea Tree Oil, otherwise known as Melaleuca Oil, and Lavendar Oil. Personally I buy cleaning products from the Melaleuca company. {Side note: If you're interested in their products, send me an email}

Since taking this class my friend has actually sworn off antibacterial products, even the natural ones. She's learning that to kill bacteria is to kill the good and bad alike and without the good bacteria we lose our ability to fight off the bad. The result: we catch things much easier and the bad germs tend to mutate to something worse.

My feeling is that God provided all we need to fight infection. He made somethings naturally antibacterial and somethings just good cleaning agents because He knew that we'd need to fight the germs sometimes and other times we'd need those 'bad' germs to instigate our bodies to develop a stronger germ warfare naturally.

Following is an excerpt from an article I ran across recently that sums it up nicely.

Are natural antibacterial sanitizers healthier?

"The first reason to avoid them [antibacterial sanitizers], says Rebecca Sutton, PhD, senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, is an  ingredient called triclosan, commonly used in antibacterial products. Triclosan is an antimicrobial agent and pesticide that’s closely related to dioxin. Translation: It’s been linked to liver and thyroid problems. Awesome.  
The second reason to avoid antibacterial products is that even those made with alcohol increase the risk of antibiotic resistance. What that means, in a nutshell, is that as antibacterial products become more common, some germs become immune to them, then come back with a vengeance in the form of “superbugs.” Trust us when we say that you do not want a superbug setting up camp in your bod. And since study after study shows that washing your hands with regular soap and water is as effective as using special germ-killing products, there’s really no point in buying a bunch of disinfectants you don’t need, whether they’re synthetic or natural.
Of course there are situations where you might justifiably need a quick, convenient way to wash up without water — whether you’re hiking or roadtripping. And yes, if you want to throw a hand sanitizing gel in your diaper bag or camping first aid kit, a bio-based product like ethanol would probably have a slight edge over petroleum-derived, isopropyl alcohol, the more common ingredient in hand gels. We all know corn doesn’t exactly have a pristine environmental record, but it definitely never hurts to reduce your consumption of petroleum-based products, even if by just a smidgen."
Story by Tobin Hack. This article originally appeared in Plenty in December 2008.                 Copyright Environ Press 2008.

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