No matter where you go, germs and bacteria surround you, and so does the media saturated story about hidden germs in hotel rooms and the everlasting spread of foreign and external and even lethal viruses in hotel rooms. We are obsessed with germs and bacteria, but the bacteria are everywhere – inside us and inside us. And although we know that not all bacteria are harmful, we are constantly trying to eliminate them … the consequences will be damned!
Creeping in: How the seeds of xermaphobia were sown
Our national obsession with germs and bacteria had begun long before the Civil War, but it seems to have roots in New York City's primary public health campaign. With the invention of clean drinking water and new sewage system, a new level of awareness came about the importance of cleanliness and good hygiene, and the hidden health threat posed by dirty, unhealthy conditions.
Many of our beliefs around germs and diseases have been fueled by the work of Pierre Bechamp and later, Louis Pastor. The pastor is well known as the scientist who brought us "germ theory" and led us to believe that germs from the outside world invade our bodies and cause "disease", which is why we have to kill them before they kill us. In a sarcastic twist, it turns out that Pastor stole some of Beckhamp's work, who proved that it was "terrain" (meaning the inside environment of your body) that was more important than germs. The pastor made a name for himself by distorting Beckhamp's work and insisting it was on the other side. When he died, he acknowledged that "germs are nothing, terrain is all".
With the success of Pasteur's initial public health campaign on "germ theory," a new generation of homemade cleansers, personal care products, and drugs designed to kill bacteria and germs were born. Extensive research by Julianne Civulkar, presented in Stranger to Dirt: American Cultural History of Advertising Personal Hygiene, introduced some "anti-microbial" advertisements in the early 1875s and has been throughout the twentieth century.
We have come to rely on growing bleach, ammonia, isopropyl alcohol, and anti-bacterial (and potentially toxic) products without any guidance on how to lead a healthy life and better manage the biological challenges we may face. Most recently, our Sanitizer Ab Anti-bacterial soaps to increase our fears. These products now contain worrisome ingredients such as triclosan, the derivative of Agent Orange, whose overuse is creating a new resistant strain of bacteria or "super bugs." Ironically, these super bugs pose an even greater threat to our future ability to prevent infections and diseases, which begs the question whether our fear of germs can really help us or inadvertently hurt us? Knowing our "germophobia" lineage, it is not difficult to understand how misguided science work has reached us at this moment with greater commercial interests.
Xermaphobia: The Good, the Bad and the Poor
There is no question that there are harmful bacteria that can make you very sick and even kill you – the mustard and swine flu strains seem to be the latest threat. However, we cannot let our fears about these viruses blind us to the potential harm that comes from trying to kill all the germs and bacteria (real or imagined). Or, more importantly, will we pay the hidden price when we use a product or take a drug designed to kill "bad" bacteria, but also kill "good" bacteria in the process?
Our intestines are infused with "good" bacteria (gut flora) that help break down food so that the body can use its nutrients. Most "good" bacteria in your digestive system also protect you from other infections such as food poisoning and yeast infections that increase the amount of excess sugar in your gut. When you have an infection (such as a bladder or upper respiratory tract infection), the antibiotics that your physician prescribes kill the bacteria, both good and bad. When you can rid yourself of one problem, in killing "good" bacteria, you may end up with another problem. Women often get yeast infections as a direct result of taking antibiotics for other infections. They are then given a separate antibiotic to address that problem and the cycle lasts. Or, as is often the case, the condition can only come back months or even years.
This phenomenon can have significant consequences when it is widely publicized, as it did in 2007, when there was a massive outbreak of drug-resistant staph infections. While this has become an ongoing problem in hospitals, the prevalence of these levels is rarely seen in schools or even in lockers rooms of professional sports teams. Thanks to our endless use of antibiotics, this bacterial strain has become resistant to what it was used to first. The result? Every year in the U.S., we lose about 18,000 people to this type of infection. Ironically, the only cure is to further the cycle by creating powerful (and theoretically better) antibiotics.
The good news is that science is starting to recognize that we have come a long way with antibiotics and are looking at using gentle, safe plant-based alternatives. Tea tree essential oils, featuring its powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, have shown the promise of various studies as a safe and effective way to kill "bad" bacteria without destroying the "good". It is widely used in Australia (where it grows greatly) for the successful treatment of conditions such as East infection and athlete's foot.
Medical aromatherapy reputed expert. Daniel Pennell points out in his book "Life Helping Life" that tea tree oil (Melauccia alterifolia) has considerable potential as an antibacterial agent, but it is different than just the invasive conventional antibiotic. Destructive bacteria. It was "made from life to help life," so it knows what it does. Other essential oils that promise the treatment of bacterial infections include thyme, oregano and clove buds. And several other essential oils that feature anti-viral have been identified as potent immune system defenders. To put things into perspective, studying the use of essential oils in the treatment of illness and disease is an essential part of the curriculum in medical schools in France, indicating their validity as a valid alternative.
The world is incredibly full of bacteria. Both modern treatment and society have crossed the boundaries of intelligent practice in their own approach to communication. Only with one step and openly adopting natural alternatives will it be possible to successfully launch the tide of today's threatening antibiotic-resistant infections.
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