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Is Antibacterial Soap Making You Fat?

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Did you know that your choice of soap can have drastic effects on your entire body? Find out how antibacterial soap may be making you fat below!

Do you break out the antibacterial soap during flu season? New research shows you may want to switch to a regular soap instead.

According to a series of studies, the antibacterial ingredient triclosan, commonly used in antibacterial soaps, is associated with a variety of health problems- including hormone disruption, weight gain, and thyroid imbalances. Simply by routinely washing your hands with triclosan you may be seriously damaging your health in multiple ways. Find out more about this surprising connection below.

Side Effects of Antibacterial Soap

Numerous studies have found links between the use of triclosan (and other antibacterial products) and dangerous health problems. Some of the most common and dangerous side effects are listed below.

Drug-Resistant Bacteria

In 2006, a study from the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety found that triclosan was an effective ingredient at reducing bacteria colonies in the 1990s, but when the same bacteria were tested against triclosan in 2000, the bacteria showed resistance to the ingredient.

According to the study authors, “of major concern is the possibility that triclosan resistance may contribute to reduced susceptibility to clinically important antimicrobials, due to either cross-resistance or co-resistance mechanisms.” The study authors found a particular worrisome connection between the over-abundance of triclosan and antibacterial resistance in Escherichia coli and Salmonella. This could be one possible reason why outbreaks of these bacteria have had severe side effects in recent years.

Hormone Imbalances

Numerous recent studies have found that antibacterial products have a dramatic disrupting effect on the endocrine system and hormones. Hormone imbalances can cause a huge variety of health problems, including cancer, birth defects, early puberty in girls, and delayed or halted puberty in boys.

A study from the University of Massachusetts Amherst stated that triclosan is one of the most commonly used endocrine disrupters used in the United States today. How does triclosan affect the endocrine system? According to the University of Victoria, triclosan has a similar chemical structure to thyroid hormones and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). This allows the body to attach the chemical to hormone receptors, but once there, obviously, the chemical does not have the desired effect on the hormone system.

In fact, aquatic animals exposed to triclosan had stunted development in a 2006 study published in the Journal of Aquatic Toxicology.

Thyroid Problems

The same aquatic study examining the effects of triclosan on the endocrine system uncovered how the chemical is damaging to the thyroid. According to the study authors, “Exposure to low levels of triclosan disrupts thyroid hormone-associated gene expression and can alter the rate of thyroid hormone-mediated postembryonic anuran development.”

In aquatic animals, the thyroid is an important part of the transition between tadpole to adult frog. In humans, the thyroid also plays a role in sexual development. However, thyroid disruption in adults also has damaging effects- such as causing hormonal imbalances that can lead to a sluggish metabolism, weight gain, and chronic inflammation.

Damaged Fetal Development

A 2014 study conducted in Brooklyn, N.Y. examined the cord blood and urine of 184 pregnant women. The researchers found that all of the women had detectable levels of triclosan in their blood. Previous studies have shown that triclosan can cause developmental problems in unborn children- which can lead to birth defects and delayed development once the baby is born.

In fact, the link between fetal development problems and antibacterial products is so strong, the Federal Drug Administration is currently reviewing the safety of including triclosan in any antibacterial product. Some states are already banning the use of the ingredient.

According to an article published in Health Day in August 2014, Avon, and Johnson & Johnson, and Proctor & Gamble have all determined to remove triclosan from their products in the next few years. However, triclosan is not the only antibacterial product that has damaging effects on fetal development. Another popular antibacterial product, butylparaben, has been linked with smaller newborn sizes and weights at birth.

Weight Gain

Numerous studies have indicated that the use of antibiotics leads to weight gain. In fact, some farmers use antibiotics to increase the bodyweight of meat animals. Using antibacterial products in addition to taking antibiotics may also be causing weight gain.

A 2013 study published by Stanford University found that individuals with higher amounts of triclosan in their urine were more likely to have a higher body mass index. Increased levels of triclosan caused a 0.9-point increase in BMI in study participants.

According to the study, both the antibacterial properties of triclosan and the endocrine-disrupting effects can cause weight gain. Antibacterial products kill some of the beneficial bacteria in the stomach that control weight gain. The slowing of the thyroid also causes additional weight gain, the study found.

Cancer Risk

An article published in The Atlantic in 2014, studies have found that the presence of triclosan in mice contributed to liver fibrosis, inflammatory responses, and abnormal cell proliferation. According to the study authors, these system changes, "resemble the environment within which human liver cancer forms." The study authors were concerned that the high prevalence of this ingredient may be leading to an increase in liver cancer and possibly other forms of cancer if the same cell changes occur in other areas of the body.

The study authors recommended that individuals stop using any products containing triclosan. According to the study authors, “During early development, very small amounts of hormone have very big effects on developmental processes… We know that hormones in the fetus and the infant are really important for neurobiological development."

What about the Benefit of Antibacterial Products?

The entire purpose of antibacterial products was to destroy bacteria that can make you sick. However, most common infections and illnesses are actually viral based. Antibacterial products do nothing to prevent the spread of viral infections.

In fact, in 2013, the FDA proposed a new requirement for soap manufacturers that would require them to prove that antibacterial soaps were more effective at preventing illness than regular soap. According to an FDA press release, "There is currently no evidence that they are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water.

Further, some data suggest that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in antibacterial products—for example, triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps)—could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects." The press release also stated, "We believe there should be a clearly demonstrated benefit from using antibacterial soap to balance any potential risk.”

Even the FDA does not believe that using antibacterial products has any beneficial effects according to this press release.

Effective Ways to Prevent Illness and Bacteria

If antibacterial cleaning products and soaps do not reduce the risk of getting an illness, what can? The following products have been shown to help prevent the spread of illness- both the bacterial and viral kind.

Wash Hands

Washing hands with soap and hot water are one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of illness. Always wash your hands in water that is as hot as you can handle and use plenty of soap. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds at a time and make sure to clean under the fingernails, between the fingers, and the backs of your hands. Wash your hands after touching anything dirty and before all meals.

Use Natural Disinfectants

Common cleaners sold for disinfecting and sanitizing have damaging effects on the body and the environment. Luckily, some natural products do the job just as well. When purchasing pre-made cleaners, avoid any of the following ingredients:

Cleaner Ingredients to Avoid 
  • 2-butoxyethanol
  • Alkylphenol ethoxylates
  • Bisphenol A d-Limonene
  • Dyes
  • Ethanolamines
  • Fragrances
  • Parabens
  • Phthalates
  • Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride
  • Lauryl dimethyl benzyl ammonium
  • Chloride
  • Benzyl-C10-16-alkyl dimethyl, chlorides
  • Benzyl-C12-16-alkyl dimethyl, chlorides
  • Benzyl-C12-18-alkyl dimethyl, chlorides
  • Benzyl-C16-18-alkyl dimethyl, chloride
  • Didecyl and didecyl dimethyl benzyl
  • Ammonium chloride
  • Triclocarban
  • Triclosan

According to a study conducted by the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, a cleaning method that first used 3 percent hydrogen peroxide followed by white vinegar was effective at killing all of the common bacteria and viruses that make us sick, including E. coli, Shigella, and Salmonella. Keeping the mixtures separate was more effective than mixing them, the study authors found.

The most effective cleaning method cleaned the surface first with soap and water- then used a mist of hydrogen peroxide. After about 10 seconds, a spray of vinegar was applied. This cleaning method was 10 times more effective than using just one spray alone or both ingredients together. The EPA also lists the following cleaners as effective sanitizers and disinfectants:

Natural Disinfectants
  • Hot water
  • Vinegar
  • Hydrogen peroxide (more effective when used with vinegar)
  • Sunlight
  • Lemon juice (in a higher concentration than 2 percent and allowed to remain on the surface for 30 minutes)
  • Regular soap (does not kill some of the most potent bacteria and viruses)
  • Oil of oregano (particularly effective at killing the norovirus, which causes stomach bugs)
  • Coconut oil
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Tea tree oil

Other Thyroid Boosting Steps

Antibacterial products have a devastating impact on your thyroid. However, there are other steps you can take to improve your thyroid function. Research shows that daily exercise, avoiding soy products, eating a healthy diet, and taking thyroid-boosting supplements can all help improve thyroid function without the need for hormone therapy. Some supplements which have been shown to boost thyroid function include Iodine, Magnesium, B vitamins, Coconut oil, Vitamin D, Selenium, Zinc, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C.

Ditch Antibacterial Products and Improve Your Thyroid Function

Although eliminating antibacterial products from your home may not have a drastic impact on your thyroid function right away, it will have a significant impact over time. Both adults and children will benefit from the removal of antibacterial products. Sexual development will improve, you will restore your thyroid hormone balance, and you will prevent the development of bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. You may not be able to reverse all that is wrong with your thyroid by eliminating antibacterial products, but it will definitely help.





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