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It’s smart to be cautious during the COVID-19 outbreak, and to make sure you are washing your hands, wearing a mask in public, etc. But is all this focus on germs and keeping things sanitized turning you into a germophobe?
If you’ve started to have an abnormal fear of contamination, and you are going through hand sanitizer like nobody’s business, then you need to hear what I’ve got to say in this article. I’ll explain why not all germs are bad, and how over-sanitizing your life can lead to some harmful effects on your health.
In fact, by trying to protect yourself, you may be leaving yourself even more susceptible to infection.
I will cover:
- Why not all microbes are bad.
- Why we need friendly microbes for immune health.
- The dangers of over-sanitizing.
- The bottom line.
Not all germs are dangerous
Some people get freaked out when they hear that microbes are everywhere. There are “germs” living on all the surfaces you touch, in the dirt in your garden, and even on your skin. And most people have a very negative association with germs.
But what many people don’t realize is that not all germs are harmful or dangerous.
It is true that some microbes are harmful. These are called pathogens. Pathogens include viruses, bacteria, fungi, candida, etc., and they are the microbes that cause disease.
But you have trillions of friendly microbes in your body as part of your immune system. Friendly microbes are not pathogenic. These microbes are good for you, and they live all around: on the surface of your body on your skin, inside your body, in the lining of your digestive tract, and more.
If you turn into a germophobe who has a fear of germs (and you think about germs as all bad), you run the risk of getting rid of all the good bacteria along with the bad.
When you over-sanitize your body, you kill off the friendly microbes your body needs to stay healthy.
Why you need friendly microbes
The friendly bacteria in your body do so much good to benefit your health. They are part of a symbiotic relationship – we help them and they help us.
Friendly microbes are particularly important for immunity. Here are a few of the ways friendly microbes support your immune system:
- They make acid. Certain microbes make an acid that causes pathogens to not want to live in that environment.
- They make vitamins. Some microbes make vitamins that your immune system needs to function.
- They have anti-tumor properties. Microbes can support anti-tumor activity in the body.
As you can see, these microbes can help to boost our immune system and protect us from disease.
The problem with over-sanitization
If you are a germophobe, you may be afraid of any and all germs, and you may take every precaution to sterilize as much as possible. But doing so can come with a lot of harm.
When you excessively destroy the microbes on your body, in your environment, and in your food, your resistance to infection actually goes down.
In our attempts to kill off the harmful pathogens, we kill off the good microbes too, disrupting the healthy balance. And that is a problem, because our good microbes help form a barrier that protects us from pathogens.
Here are some examples of what can happen when we over-sanitize:
- Over-sterilization of the body leads to a decrease in T-cells. T-cells are part of our adaptive immune system, and they are important for preventing inflammatory reactions in the body.
- When you alter your microbiome, you can throw things off balance and start to get inflammatory conditions. For example, you may get inflammatory skin conditions on the skin such as psoriasis, rosacea, and acne, because we need the friendly flora on our skin to keep things
- Germ-free mice (mice that have been bred in the lab to have no microbial life inside or outside of them) end up with autoimmune diseases, allergies, asthma, and all sorts of health problems.
- When we consume food that is too highly sterilized (such as with pasteurization or radiation), it can create an immune reaction that actually weakens our immune system.
In essence, our germophobic attempts to stay germ-free actually backfire; they make us more susceptible to infection and result in a variety of different health problems.
The bottom line
Taking the necessary precautions (like washing your hands a lot and wearing a mask in public) is definitely a good idea right now.
But overdoing it with germophobic tendencies should be avoided. Becoming a germophobe and over-sanitizing everything in your life can actually do more harm than good. In fact, over-sterilization can weaken your immune defenses and leave you more susceptible to infection. Learn more about gut bacteria and viruses here.
Instead of going too far with keeping away all germs whatsoever, you should focus your energy on boosting your immune system.
With viruses like the coronavirus, the strategic advantage they have is being able to invade people with compromised immune systems. But they are at a real disadvantage when they face someone with a strong immune system.
If you maintain your immune system and keep it healthy, it can defend you against just about any attack from any viruses or bacteria on the planet. To learn more about how to bulletproof your immune system and build up your defenses, go here.
Are you becoming a germophobe during COVID-19? Share your experiences, thoughts, and questions with me below.