The ban on triclosan (and on being too clean)

Triclosan in hand sanitizer

Triclosan – what you need to know

On September 9, 2016, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned triclosan – a chemical originally registered as a pesticide in 1969 and used since early 1970s in a very wide variety of anti-bacterial products – including, but not limited to soaps, shampoos, mouthwashes, toothpastes, deodorants, as well as household cleaning products, clothing, toys, bedding, trash bags and others.

In its statement, FDA notes that “…companies will no longer be able to market antibacterial washes with these ingredients because manufacturers did not demonstrate that the ingredients are both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections…” Moreover, as noted further, “…some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.
(Triclosan, by the way, is not the only anti-bacterial agent used in consumer products, but FDA has deferred rulemaking for one year on three additional ingredients used in consumer wash products – benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride and chloroxylenol (PCMX), so antibacterial products containing these ingredients continue to be marketed).

As good as this triclosan ban sounds, many people feel that it’s a little too late – we are talking about a chemical, the use of which has been so widespread over a number of years that some studies (like this study of expecting mothers from Brooklyn, NY, done by Arizona State University) have demonstrated its presence in 100% of urine samples and 51% of cord blood samples of the population tested). Because triclosan is used a lot In healthcare (in surgical scrubs and hand washes, as coating in surgical sutures and as a method of decolonization of patients whose skin carries methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA), doctors and nurses have blood and urine levels of triclosan several orders of magnitude higher than other people.

Triclosan is the chemical which, because of such widespread use, ends up in municipal water supplies, where it cannot be sufficiently degraded and removed to the extent necessary and, thus, can be potentially re-introduced into your drinking water.

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Surviving winter holidays – Part I: Sleep and Air Travel

Winter-Holidays-Party-Gone-Wrong

Ah, winter holidays…  It’s this time of the year again, when caution goes out the window.  ‘Tis the season to be indulging in lots of baked and sweet food, alcohol, partying, long nights and, sometimes, hectic travel schedules to reunite with your families.

Perhaps there is a reason why most people make their New Year’s resolutions at year-end and why a lot of these are going to involve losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle, in general – after all, these resolutions are made after or right around the parties subside and you realize you have gained a few extra pounds after eating too many cookies and candy canes, drinking too many eggnogs and munching some questionable party food.

Some people might say “Oh, come on, it’s holiday season, surely we can let our guard down once for that occasion!”  (These are probably the same people who insist that kids should be kids and we shouldn’t interfere with their unquenchable desire for junk foods and buckets of sweets).  Look, I’m not saying that you should go through life with total inflexibility, like a robot executing a very rigid program and deserve blasphemy if you deviate even a little bit – it is impossible.  We are all humans and we, sometimes, have urges and desires that do not always fall on the healthy side of the spectrum.  It is unlikely that any of the dietary practices I’m trying to caution you against would be lethal from the very first time.  We cannot live in a sterile environment and always fully protect ourselves from detrimental effects of the environment, social activities or whatever.

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Genetically modified organisms: the real facts

Genetically Modified Organisms

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are restricted or banned in more than 60 countries in the world, but happily ingested by unsuspecting consumers in the USA, Canada, China, India, Brazil, Paraguay, South Africa, Uruguay, Australia and many other countries.

Even if a country does not commercially grow genetically modified crops (like the EU, for example, that only had small-scale field trials so far) doesn’t necessarily mean that population in that country is not consuming them – with Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) now in place, US may import genetically modified crops into EU (which they do).  This includes human food, animal feed, agricultural crops and products from GMO- fed animals.

What’s the big deal?  Let’s take a closer look.

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Nourishing good bacteria to improve health

bad and good bacteria

How bad and good bacteria influence everything in your life

You have 100 trillion bacteria in your gut.  This is 10 times the number of all other cells in all your other tissues combined.

You may not think much of bacteria and, in fact, try to eradicate it when you get a chance (using anti-bacterial sanitizers, soaps and shampoos to clean yourself up and gobbling up antibiotics when you get sick) – the symbiotic relationship of your gut bacteria with the rest of your biology has some people argue that we are nothing more than just vessels and vehicles for bacteria that control what we do, how we eat and how long we live – all as a part of a devious plan to ensure their survival and domination.

While this sounds a bit too much like science fiction, the reality may not be very far from it when you start considering a few facts.  We mostly think of our intestinal flora in the context of digestion problems, gas and stomach pains (and an odd yogurt advertised on TV), but it is so much more than just that.

In fact, your microbiome (gut bacteria) are responsible for a wide variety of functions, such as:

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Is coffee bad for you?

The attitude toward coffee seems to have changed several times over the last few decades and  even now the range of these opinions is quite wide – some people would not touch coffee, blaming it for every possible symptom they experience, while some others swear by it and consider it a health elixir.  Some people consider caffeine bad and only drink coffee if it is decaffeinated, while people in some cultures drink 6 cups a day and seem to be doing OK.  Your head must be spinning by now and you might be wondering what to believe – but then again, if you have been reading this blog for any period of time, you realize by now that conventional advice and articles you might read in magazines are not always correct and are often influenced by marketing, as opposed to scientific evidence.

This article will help you debunk a few coffee myths and help you better understand how it influences your health (perhaps surprising you with a few little-known facts).

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