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Microbes – A Love/Hate Relationship


Today, I was seeing patients in clinic, talking with a Mom about our treatment plan.  Her little girl, a beautiful child I might add, was crawling marine-style under the chair upon which her Mom was sitting.  The mother bent down, and pulled the child out from under the chair, and admonished her by saying, “Get up from the floor.   It’s dirty!”  The Mom then pulled out a bottle of antibacterial hand-sanitizer from her enormous hand-bag covered in logos, cleansed her little girl’s hands with the solution, straightened the massive flower, head-band thing on her daughter’s head, and then proceeded to give her daughter her I-phone.

Now let’s think about this for just a minute.  The mother has completely flipped out over the fact her child is climbing around on the floor, which is mopped nightly and buffed once a week.  In all actuality, the floor is probably cleaner than the floors in most homes.  But then she gives the child her I-phone, which is probably teeming with microorganisms, awful microbes, microbes you might find on a toilet seat.  Check this site out on the top 10 microorganisms found on a cell phone.

I have been thinking about this all day, which is convenient since I needed to come up with a post for ‘M’.  This brought me back to something I witnessed while I was at Whole Foods the other day.  A tennis Mom (dressed as though she had just come off the tennis courts), spent several long minutes meticulously cleaning the shopping cart she had chosen, with one of those anti-bacterial wipes that Whole Foods so graciously provides.  The next time I saw her, she was in the vegetable section, carefully selecting Portobello mushrooms (which is a fungus).  Not that I am stalking the woman, but I see her again, selecting yogurt (full of active cultures of Lactobacillus and Streptococcus thermophilus – bacteria).  Finally, I pass by her as she is scanning the refrigerated section where the probiotics are kept, she is busily deciding on which one to purchase.  Probiotics are capsules full of millions of bacteria (Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium). 

Does any of this make any sense to you?

Has our society just gone bonkers?   One of the common ingredients in antibacterial agents, soaps, shampoos, toothpaste and other common household items in Triclosan.  There is some concern that we are using so much Triclosan it is showing up in breast milk, in the urine of children and there is some thought it might be linked to liver issues.  We are destroying not only bad microbes, but all the essential microbes that exist on and in our bodies.  These microbes maintain a balance in our bodies and we are throwing that balance completely out of whack and in the process, potentially destroying our livers.

There is some thought the alarming increase in food allergies may be linked to the use of antimicrobial agents, because of the disruption in the fragile balance of bacteria that live within our bodies.  Maybe we should go back to the old standby – soap (not antibacterial) and water.  Maybe we should let our children get dirty and not be continually trying to make their lives devoid of microbes, because we may actually be doing them more harm than good.

As a kid, my Mum let me slosh around in mud puddles, and we would spend Spring afternoons collecting water from the creeks and ponds, in order to catch tadpoles.  I spent hours as a kid laying in the dirt, playing marbles, making mud pies. I was allowed to wallow in the joys of being a kid and getting dirty (and boy, was I good at getting dirty).  We all did that, me and my buddies.  And we were healthy and happy.

Thanks to for image of microbes.

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