Sunday, February 7, 2010

Antibacterial Thinking

In my job I have to wash my hands continuously. There are those hand-sanitizer dispensers everywhere and I use them because I don't want to catch every single bug that's going around. But mostly I just wash my hands. I've noticed though that now our office restrooms have antibacterial soap. It kills all the bacteria, good and bad alike. When we wash our hands correctly (and you're a smart person, you don't need detailed instructions, just do it thoroughly) they get just as clean with regular soap as they do with antibacterial soap.

I have a septic tank at my home. It's out there buried somewhere and I really hope I never find out exactly where. I'm careful about what I send to it. I don't want to send it antibacterial soap or antibacterial anything. In fact, I send it helpful bacteria each month to help it break down all the stuff I don't want to think about. Lots of the chemicals people use to clean their homes totally screw up a system like that. And my little septic tank system is just a smaller version of a city's waste treatment system.

We need a balance of bacteria in our lives. Killing them all is the same attitude that brought us DDT. Insects are not out to kill us and we needn't be out to kill them either. They'll do a pretty good job balancing if we stay out of their way. Same with bacteria.

We're hearing so much now about pro-biotics. Commercials tell us to eat certain yogurt because it's good for us. We need a good balance of bacteria in our guts so they can work right. When we use broad spectrum antibiotics and kill all the bacterial, the yeast gets real happy and overgrows. Then we have to find some way to get live acidophilus back into our mouths, guts, and tummies.

We just love overkill it seems. Bugs in the garden? Kill 'em all! Oh, wait, we need pollination for the Earth to live. Bacteria in our bodies? Kill 'em all. Oh, wait, we need some to digest properly. Bad guys in funny clothes? Kill ‘em all. Oh, wait, maybe that’s not a great idea either.

My college roommate told me that just because you can catch a fish, doesn’t mean you should keep it. The same goes for killing things. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. I’m not saying that we should never kill anything. I’m all for killing the viruses that cause me to get sick. I just don’t think we need to kill everything that’s a bacteria or a virus when we’re doing it.

When little beetles have munched on my bean plants, I’ve been happy to pick them off and feed them to the chickens. I just didn’t see any point in spraying chemicals on my garden that would kill every bug there. If a person with blond hair tries to kill my child, I would try my best to feed that person to the chickens, too. But I wouldn’t then try to kill everyone with blond hair. That would be insane.

So think about using just regular ol’ soap. You don’t have to kill everything living down the drain, just the flu bugs on your hands. And if that message rolls over into other areas of your life, well just let it. We may all be healthier for it.


  1. Thank you, Nurse Fay, for teaching me proper handwashing techniques.

    When H1N1 was the big scare, even the CDC's advice was to use antibacterial soaps. Shame on them. Bacteria and viruses are two distinct creatures.

    And talking about good bacteria, I wonder how many people know that's what makes their bread rise?

  2. Over & ultra-sterilization cannot be a good thing...!

  3. Yay...I can comment now that I am using a different browser! Very thoughtful, as usual. I love good bacteria. It makes my life much better.

  4. Good bacteria loves you, too, Jess!

  5. Antibiotics are what caused what has become a rampant candida infection in my wife, and through association, myself.
    Yuk. Severe yeast infections are bad news.
    We are gobbling up something called 3lac which is like acidophilus on steroids.
    It's doing a great job for me, but - wouldn't you know it - my wife has a tooth abscess now, and - wouldn't you know it (again) - she is taking antibiotics to control it.
    Everything moves in circles!