FROM SANITARY TO INSANITY: Obsessive cleaners need to step back, warn health experts
Fatima Texiwala
July 26, 2019
July 26, 2019 1:55 PM EDT
Scientists say over cleaning might do more harm to our immune system and digestive system in the long run. Getty Images
Nowadays clean just isn’t clean enough.
Things have to be sprayed, scrubbed, bleached, sanitized, and wiped down to kill off 99.9% of germs.
But do we really need to be obsessive cleaners like Monica from Friends?
Scientists say over-cleaning might do more harm to our immune system and digestive system in the long run.
Dr. David Strachan suggested microbiota, our body’s micro-organisms, play a vital role in training our body to fight off potential threat.
Strachan’s “Hygiene Hypothesis” was first to propose that children raised in super-clean environments are more likely to get asthma and allergies.
His paper claims pets, farms and day care expose children to good microbes, which helps them build tolerance at an early age.
The theory suggested that when we over-clean things around us, our internal defence gets weaker, making us vulnerable to diseases in the future.
We can strengthen our immune system by allowing early exposure to microbes, according to microbiologist Mary Ruebush.
Extreme cleaning can get in the way of that and “disrupts the normal flora which keep you healthy by competing with harmful organisms,” says Ruebush.
So how can we find a balance between clean and too clean?
According to Royal Society for Public Health, “target hygiene” is a way to keep good germs around and avoid bad ones.
The tactic tries to keep cleaning practices in check to focus on places where bad microbes (pathogens) exists to avoid spreading infections and diseases.
“It is now understood that what is important is diverse exposure to microbes that are mostly harmless, rather than infections from harmful microbes,” the report says.
Being clean is healthy for us and practices, such as washing hands, cleaning food contact surfaces, washing dirty clothes are still considered extremely necessary.
Like a lot of things in life — having a healthy balance between two much and too little is the way to go.
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