Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Antibacterial products and probiotic supplements: save money and your health – don’t use them

Probiotic Bacteria…Yum!

Some people are going to be surprised at the advice to avoid antibacterial products and probiotic additives and supplements, but there are several very good reasons to do so.

What prompted my interest was the first line from this news story: "Bugs in baby food? Microbes in your milkshake? Relax, this is not the latest tainted food scare — it's a growing trend in foods designed to boost health, not make you sick." ("Products with good bacteria get popular" By LINDSEY TANNER, AP Medical Writer, Mon Dec 10, 2007)

The vision that popped into my mind was one of a young mother, tv advertising in the background, spraying her baby with the newest antibacterial product safe enough to use around baby, and then feeding her child with this expensive, and unnecessary probiotic baby food to replace all the bacteria in her child she had just killed with the antibacterial product.

Do you see where this is going, and why I am against using both these products?

First, what do they mean by probiotic and antibacterial? Call this "Bacteria 101."

Pro – for, supportive of
Anti – against, opposed to
Biotic – of or pertaining to living organisms (i.e. bacteria)

So, probiotics support bacteria, and antibiotics kill bacteria.

Now that you know what you are looking for, take a look at probiotics. This excerpt is from the "An Introduction to Probiotics" page of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

"Probiotics are live microorganisms (in most cases, bacteria) that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut. They are also called "friendly bacteria" or "good bacteria."

Yes, folks, bacteria, that very same stuff you pay top dollar to kill with antibacterial soaps, wipes, and sprays.

Here are two of their Key Points:

· "There is limited evidence supporting some uses of probiotics. Much more scientific knowledge is needed about probiotics, including about their safety and appropriate use.

· "Effects found from one species or strain of probiotics do not necessarily hold true for others, or even for different preparations of the same species or strain."

Some foods that contain naturally-occurring "friendly bacteria" are fermented items like yogurt, some cheeses, and sometimes pickles.

However, the experts do not agree that supplemental probiotics are effective at all, and they don't agree on which bacterial strains may be effective in delivering the proper amounts of "friendly bacteria" to your body.

There is one very large, red letter, bell-ringing question that everyone should be asking. I am. Are you? What is the "proper" amount of "friendly bacteria" you should be taking? No one knows, and you may be doing far more harm than good by ingesting these untried and possibly untrue supplements.

Now, why do you think you need these products in the first place?

Probably because you believe your body is low or lacking in the friendly bacterial you need to be healthy.

Why is that?

Probably because it is being killed by antibacterial products that destroy all bacteria, not just the unhealthy, disease-causing bugs. Not only that, by killing all bacteria in your environment, you are not giving yourself the small amount of exposure you need to build your immune resistance to bacteria.

Some exposure to environmental bacteria acts like a natural vaccine. When exposed to a small amount of bacteria, your body builds antibodies that will rid you of any disease-threatening bugs. If you are never exposed to a germ, you build no natural resistance. When you are then exposed to bacteria that you have built no resistance against, you get sick.

There are four things happening here:

1. stress suppresses the immune system

2. you are not giving your immune system the opportunity to build resistance to unhealthy bacteria

3. you are using antibacterial products that kill the friendly bacteria you do need to be healthy

4. antibacterial products probably contribute to the evolution of "super-bugs," germs that are resistant to antibiotic treatments.

Antibacterial products in everyday, home use is actually unhealthy, and one expert from John's Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public health advises most people to avoid them.

Here are a few answers to questions on antibacterial (antimicrobial) products from Rolf U. Halden, PhD, PE, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Excerpts from "Cleaning Up Antimicrobial Hand Soaps" Please read this carefully and share it with your friends and relatives!

Office of Communications and Public Affairs: What are some of the concerns over the use of antimicrobial soaps?

Rolf Halden: One concern is that antimicrobial hand soaps may contribute to the rise of germs that are resistant to treatment with antibiotics. Most antimicrobial soaps use either triclosan or triclocarban as an ingredient to kill microorganisms. Triclosan is labeled a biocide, which means that it uses a non-specific mode of action to kill microbes. It is thought to destroy biological structures at random. [It kills good bacteria as well as bad bacteria. ~M~] Triclocarban resembles triclosan in structure and function.

Non-specific cell damage is not the only mode of action, however. Recent investigations demonstrated that triclosan also targets a specific site in the fatty acid synthesis of microorganisms. These studies can help to explain why laboratory bacteria exposed to triclosan were observed to develop cross-resistance to 7 out of 12 antibiotics evaluated—a finding interpreted by some scientists as a red flag and a harbinger of more drug-resistant microbial infections in humans. [I found this shocking….over half the antibiotics evaluated no longer kill the bacteria! ~M~]

OC&PA: Do these chemicals have negative environmental impacts?

RH: Triclosan has been detected in fish and in breast milk. This is not a big surprise since it shares similarities with other chlorinated organic pollutants, such as dioxin, PCBs and DDT. My laboratory group has detected triclosan and triclocarban in surface water, aquatic sediments and in municipal sludge, a sewage treatment by-product that is used extensively as agricultural fertilizer. Due to their persistence, both chemicals are widespread environment pollutants, detectable in about 60 percent of U.S. streams.

Triclosan is a pre-dioxin. It contains small quantities of toxic dioxins and can be converted to form additional dioxins when irradiated with sunlight. Triclocarban is a suspected carcinogen that can disintegrate to release two carcinogenic substances for each molecule converted. [Bold emphasis added by Michelle]

OC&PA: If these compounds are harmful, why would they be allowed in soap?

RH: When assessing the health risks of antimicrobial chemicals for use in cosmetics and other personal care products, we usually look at dermal exposure, absorption through the skin, which is very limited and thus considered safe given the data available today. However, since these chemicals are persistent environmental pollutants, other potential routes of exposure may exist. Antimicrobials may function as "chemical boomerangs" that, following disposal into wastewater, can come back to us contained in food and drinking water. This route of exposure is less well understood and needs to be studied further. While the “useful” lifespan of these compounds is measured in seconds or minutes, their environmental half-lives extend to weeks, months and even years, depending on whether they reside in water, soil or sediment. Unless chemical production is being reduced, we will continue to detect these compounds in the environment as well as in food and breast milk. [Bold emphasis added by Michelle]

OC&PA: What did the FDA panel conclude?

RH: Concentrating on product efficacy, the panel concluded that use of antimicrobial personal care products offers no benefit over use of regular soap and water, based on the available science. Studies conducted to date were either inconclusive or not properly designed to show a true benefit from these products. [Bold emphasis added by Michelle]

OC&PA: Is there anything you would like to add?

RH: We as consumers buy antimicrobial products to stay healthy. In our desire for protection from potentially harmful germs, we often fail to consider the risks inherent in both the chemical exposure we voluntarily subject ourselves to and the potential increase in antibiotic-resistant pathogens in our household, workplace and the environment. In the absence of a known benefit, it is difficult to justify taking any additional risks. Regular soap and water have worked for centuries and there is no scientific evidence that this winning combination will lose its punch anytime soon. [Bold emphasis added by Michelle]


Friends, you don't need to spend your hard-earned money on probiotic foods and supplements that are of questionable value. Instead, find healthy and holistic ways to reduce stress so that your immune system functions at peak efficiency. A healthy immune system is the answer to probiotic and antibacterial use.

Avoiding toxic, antibacterial products will not only save you money on the products and the supplements you buy to reverse the effects of random bacteria killing, they will save your health and the health of the environment. Without them, your body will work holistically, as Nature intended, to build resistance to disease as well as generate the friendly bacteria you need to be healthy.

For non-toxic, natural ways to clean your home, read my article on the "Health Hazards of Housework and Chemical Cleaners" which contains a list of environment-friendly and people-friendly cleaning products.


Veggies.... said...

Fascinating reading M!

We recently took a 'food safe' course and it really was amazing what is and is not safe in terms of how foods are prepared, stored etc...and all the 'bugs' of various types that can become a problem. A bit off topic but to be sure, there are the good bacteria and the bad and people do have to start getting wise and avoid 'overkill' no pun intended,for themselves and for their children.

Another scenario that really makes me cringe, seeing a parent smearing deet-based insect repellant on their kids....really frightening and sad.The long-term effects will be devastating Im sure.

PS Books here :<) do get in touch when you can.

Michelle said...

Hi G,

We keep going further and further down this road of chemical destruction.

Yes, the "long term" affects started in the 1950's and are showing now as it's predicted that one-half the men in the US will have cancer, 1 in 150 children will develop autism, it's predicted that one-half the women in the US will suffer a bone fracture due to osteoporosis, 25% of the hihg-school age children will be diagnosed as clinically depressed and probably be prescribed antidepressants.

All as a result of being relentlessly exposed to environmental pollutants and chemical additives, and drugs and other chemicals.

People need to stop before it's too late.

pdirty said...

what about the priobiotics that are found in naturally fermented foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, yogurt and kefir?

Michelle said...


Yes, I did mention some foods containing naturally-occuring "friendly bacteria."

From the post: "Some foods that contain naturally-occurring "friendly bacteria" are fermented items like yogurt, some cheeses, and sometimes pickles."

I feel there is cause for concern with bacteria being introduced into foods where it does not naturally occur; there is the potential for interactions between the bacteria and the food that could make people sick instead of help them be healthy.

There have been too many instances lately in which a product deemed to be safe has been found to be very UNsafe.

Also, these bacteria are being added in amounts that have not been determined to be either effective or safe.

I'll be sticking with yogurt and the other naturally-occuring "friendly bacteria" in my diet, and avoiding the use of antibacterial products, as I do already.

Veggies.... said...

The friendly bacteria are actually very beneficial...kind of cool how that can be. It's been found again and again that people who enjoy a very long life usually have good sources of friendly bacteria in their diets.

Fermentation was a way of preserving foods for generations, before modern refrigeration but it also appears to have been beneficial healthwise.

******* (delete if you want from comment)
On another note....you must study up on Ed A. LOL, I'm feeling old if you don't remember him at all, the fun on the post continues,do stop by when you can.

Email rec. thanks.

Nick said...

How would you explain the effectiveness of acidophilus yeast infection treatments?

Michelle said...


I don't know if they are effecive or not, I've never needed one. I eat yogurt daily, and yogurt is supposed to protect a woman against yeast infections. Since I have never had one, I assume it works.

My point was that if a person doesn't kill off their good bacteria with antibacterial products in the first place, they won't need supplements to replace what they've just killed off except in unusual circumstances.

As far as I know, the best way to prevent a yeast infection is to eat yogurt. I can't believe it would be such a difficult problem for a woman to include a yogurt containing live cultures somewhere in her day rather than spend Big Bucks on an expensive supplement that she shouldn't need.

Best Probiotics said...

Hi Michelle, A yogurt you eat everyday is full of probiotics bacteria, so even though you do not drink any probiotics supplements, you are providing yourself good probiotics source. :-)

Michelle Wood said...

Hi Best Probiotics,

Exactly! I have the yogurt in place of supplements!

Supplements are great for people who need them, but I strongly believe that everything a person needs can be found through complete nutrition habits when one can find foods that are free of chemical contamination.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment!