Did you know that the human body contains approximately 30 trillion human cells and is home to around 38 trillion bacteria? No need to panic – you can take comfort in knowing that many bacteria in your body are, in fact, good bacteria.
All the microorganisms in your body, including bacteria, make up your microbiota. Approximately 90-95% of these microorganisms are found in your gut and belong to thousands of different species.
Among its many functions, your microbiota helps digest food, absorb nutrients, and regulate and support your immune system. However, this diversity is coming under threat from our increased use of disinfectants and sanitising products.
Unfortunately, our modern lifestyles can wreak havoc on the microbiome. Many factors including urbanisation, life stress, poor diet, overprocessed foods, pollution, antibiotics, and other medications can alter the balance of beneficial to harmful microbes in the gut. When our gut flora become imbalanced due to these external factors, we are at an increased risk of many different health problems, including allergies, metabolic conditions, and obesity.
Household cleaning products, including bleaches and antibacterial cleaners can alter the composition of the gut bacteria and let’s face it, since the pandemic, haven’t we all increased our use of such cleaning/disinfectant products? The overuse of household cleaning products can have life-long health consequences. Cleaning products cannot differentiate between harmful and beneficial bacteria, so they destroy both. This research paper highlights the concerns that using too many household products can have on our health.
A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition in 2019 found that microbiome diversity decreased significantly with regular exposure to dishwasher detergents. In line with the reduction in gut microbe diversity, the study also reported significantly reduced levels of beneficial microbial metabolites such as short-chain fatty acids in the gut. These metabolites play important roles in our digestive health, as they provide energy for the cells of the gut wall and reduce gut inflammation.
Several other studies over the past few decades indicate that too much cleanliness may be causing us to develop allergies, asthma, and other autoimmune disorders. While washing your hands with soap and water is important, reducing the overuse of good bacteria-killing hygiene and cleaning products such as hand sanitiser is also beneficial for our good bacteria.
In short, don’t be too clean. Dirt is good for you and your bacteria. So, what can we do to safeguard our microbiome without putting ourselves at risk from the spread of viruses and other infectious microbes?
Despite the detrimental effect on our gut flora that these anti-microbial cleaning and personal hygiene products have, I am certainly not suggesting that people should stop taking the necessary precautions against the spread of harmful, disease-causing bacteria and viruses, such as covid. There are plenty of less aggressive but equally effective cleaning products available. Try making your own all-purpose cleaner:
- Mix 60ml of distilled white vinegar with a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda and a litre of warm water in a bowl.
- Peel a lemon and add the skin to your bottle to create a fresh scent.
- Take half of the lemon and squeeze it into your bowl, mixing it into the solution.
- Use a funnel to disperse the solution into your bottle.
And there you have it! Your very own natural, all-purpose spray which will also leave your worktops free of smears. You can also use this all-purpose surface spray on your bathroom surfaces. Distilled white vinegar is cheap to buy and its acidic nature makes it the perfect disinfectant to wipe away bacteria. Likewise, lemon is an acidic fruit with antibacterial and antiseptic properties, making it a natural bleach. Plus, the lemon will mask the vinegar scent and won’t break the bank! Bicarbonate of soda is not only a staple in cakes, but also in natural cleaning hacks. It’s slightly abrasive which helps to remove grease, and it also has the ability to dissolve dirt.
I would also recommend an increased focus on looking after the microbiome in other ways.
Nurture your gut flora (and that of your children) with gut-friendly foods. The friendly bacteria in your gut feed on prebiotic fibre, which is found in many different fruits and vegetables. Onions, garlic, bananas and artichokes are particularly rich sources. Also try to limit the amount of sugar in your diet, as this can feed pathogens in the gut and move us away from a healthy balance of gut microbes.
Take a daily probiotic supplement. Our Live Bacteria capsules are suitable for children over the age of 2. You can open up a capsule and mix the powder into a drink or some yoghurt. Taking a probiotic supplement every day is an easy and effective way to keep levels of ‘friendly’ bacteria topped up, and could limit the damage done by exposure to cleaning products. Our Live Bacteria capsules are also pretty effective at reducing uncomfortable bloating.
Try to get outside and into nature more! Encourage your kids to help you in the garden, as exposure to soil-based microbes helps to stimulate their developing immune system. We could all learn a thing or two from our kids about the very real benefits of getting a bit messy now and then. I was never indoors when I was growing up. My younger sister and I grew up playing outdoors, in the woods near to where we lived, climbing trees and making dens in the old disused allotments that have since been developed into a housing estate. We spent many evenings during the lighter summer months after school and days during the school holidays getting dirty and loving it! Mind you, we also spent lots of time outdoors in the winter. The weather never bothered us. We’d then both jump in the bath together and there would always be a brown watermark around the old enamel bath. We slept like logs. Happy, carefree days and we never, ever suffered with our health. We were strong, happy, healthy girls, who loved being outdoors.
If you have any questions about a digestive and gut health issue or would like advice about a supplement protocol, please get in touch.