Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Just Say Maybe to Antibacterials

Google is both awesome and frightening. When I went a searching for a picture related to germaphobes I got not only the picture attached, but pictures of Megan Fox, Oprah, Toothbrushes, Drinking Fountains and National Monuments. Germaphobes are none of these things, although maybe Ms. Fox and Lady O are afraid of germs, I couldn’t honestly say, I have never met either. Germaphobe is however, the word my mother used to use for people who were overly worried about their exposure to germs.
Mom wasn’t far off, at a least according to Ubran Dictionary but a Germaphobe is actually not a real phobia. In fact if you have ever been called a germaphobe, chances are you are just any normal person who opens public bathroom doors with your elbow and gets grossed out when you touch chewed up gum under tables.   A true germ phobia is actually called Spermaphobia, funny in name but not funny in real life. If you have Spermaphobia the thought of touching second hand gum doesn’t make you gag, it gives you a panic attack. If this is you, I suggest seeking psychiatric care, there is nothing funny about feeling like you are having a heart attack. 
Panic attacks aside, germs aren’t all that scary. They are small microorganisms and we are host to them. White blood cells go to work, fight them off, new germs join in and the cycle continues.  The body stays healthy and you stay healthy. Sickness occurs when this system or cycle breaks down. Sometimes it is because the pathogen is so strong your white blood cells are killed off, like in the case of the AIDS virus. More, often life gets away from us, stress, lack of sleep and bad nutrition all become habitual. At some point the stressors will become too much. Your body energy is being used to keep normal up daily function and pathogens will start to thrive in their freedom.
The biggest threat to cellular crime fighters these days are antibacterials. Antibacterials are amazing; they kill up to 99% of germs. GREAT! Not so great for your white blood cells, they exist to fight germs, without germs they cease to exist.  The more a person kills small amounts of everyday pathogens, the more susceptible they are making themselves to more harmful diseases. 
This can be a confusing topic, so to simplify think vaccines. We all got them as a child. Vaccines are created from viruses themselves, smallpox, chickenpox, mumps, measles, labs take these and engineer them so when injected the white blood cells attack a small amount (often slightly different) of the virus. The body is now trained in smallpox combat so to speak. Same situation with everyday germs, the more types you are exposed to in small manageable amounts the more equipped your body is to naturally fight them.  Take that immunity away and your body will be overwhelmed by the large potentially harmful dose you may come across when you least expect it. 
The popularity of antiacterials is, like most things it seems, due to the media and fear based advertising. If you are in an area where raw sewage runs down the street, by all means bathe yourself in the stuff. But for the most part, and this is a complete assumption, you lovely readers live in a clean environment where soap and clean water are readily available. Soap and hot water are the cornerstones of good hygiene for a reason. It works.   
So, Germaphobes rest easy. The icky stuff on the street probably won’t kill you, and if you take good care of your body you probably won’t even notice when you are hosting a pathogen party. Should you stop using antibacterials? No, but maybe next time you grab a shopping cart let the gel rest,  save it for when you go to pick up your dog’s poo and you realize to late there is a hole in the bag.

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