Louisa Enright's Blog

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Interesting Information: Just Say “NO” to Hand-wash Chemicals

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Interesting Information:  November 11, 2012

Just Say “NO” to Hand-Wash Chemicals

I was looking for a fermented beet recipe in Sandor Ellix Katz’s WILD FERMENTATION when I realized I had marked a passage about using antibacterial soaps, most of which contain Triclosan or Triclocarban.  Katz’s book is all about using organisms of fermentation to create living foods.  As such, he argues that these organisms “play a role in protecting us, as organisms among organisms, from disease” (8).

Triclosan has been classified as a pesticide by the EPA since 1969, though it is more often used in products that promote the “body hygiene,” with which we are obsessed.  Here’s the EPA site since googling reveals that there are a number of internet sites trying to deny this classification of triclosan:  http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/factsheets/triclosan_fs.htm.   One does not really want to think that one is putting a pesticide on one’s skin or in one’s mouth (toothpaste).

The Natural Resources Defense council’s page on the dangers of triclosan is a good place to start understanding how dangerous it is.  Triclosan may cause antibiotic resistance in humans and definitely encourages the growth of “superbugs” and disrupts hormones, particularly in the brain and the reproductive systems:  http://www.nrdc.org/living/chemicalindex/triclosan.asp?gclid=CPyh97ewx7MCFcxAMgod0n4AQg.

I was fairly astonished at the extensive use of triclosan in all kinds of products.  Dr. Ben Kim has assembled an astonishing list of these products: http://drbenkim.com/articles/triclosan-products.htm.  One might expect triclosan in soap, but it’s also in toothpaste and all kinds of cosmetics–and that’s just the beginning.  Do take a look at Kim’s list–it’s in first-aid products, clothing, toys, kitchen equipment…

If the terms “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial” appear on a label, start looking deeper for Triclosan on the main ingredient label.

And, if you’re somewhere where you’ve used a toilet that has one of those hand-wash dispensers that substitute for soap and water–you might want to forgo using it.  What may or may not be on your hands is far less dangerous than the chemical you’re about to use.  Maybe carry “wipes” that are less dangerous?

As I said, Americans are obsessed with germs and body hygiene–which dates back to the divergence between germ-theory proponents and immune-system proponents AND to the market’s ability to make products that seem to quiet our fears about germs and pathogens–a fear the market exploits.  I explored this history in Mainely Tipping Points 8 Essay, with regard to the safety of real milk versus the dead commercial milk, which is on this blog.  (You can get to the essays by clicking on the right sidebar or by searching from the search bottom on the right sidebar ).  And, that’s where Katz and his WILD FERMENTATION come back into play.  It’s worth reading Katz’s take on this whole subject, from which I quote below.  (Note:   Katz cites all his quotes in the text.)

Our culture is terrified of germs and obsessed with hygiene.  The more we glean about disease-causing viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms, the more we fear exposure to all forms of microscopic life.  Every new sensationalized killer microbe gives us more reason to defend ourselves with vigilance  Nothing illustrates this more vividly than the sudden appearance, everywhere in the United States, of antibacterial soap.  Twenty years ago, mass marketing of antibacterial soap was but a glimmer in some pharmaceutical executive’s eye.  It has quickly become the standard hand-washing hygiene product.  Are fewer people getting sick as a result?  “There’s no evidence that they do any good and there’s reason to suspect that they could contribute to a problem by helping to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” says Dr. Myron Genel, chair of the American Medical Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs.  Antibacterial soap is just another exploitative and potentially dangerous product being sold by preying on people’s fears.

The antibacterial compounds in these soaps, most commonly triclosan, kill the more susceptible bacteria but not the heartier ones.  “These resistant microbes may include bacteria…that were unable to gain a foothold previously and are now able to thrive thanks to the destruction of competing microbes,” says Dr. Stuart Levy, director of the Tufts University Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance.  Your skin, your orifices, and the surfaces of your home are all covered with microorganisms that help protect you (and themselves) from potentially harmful organisms that you both encounter.  Constantly assaulting the bacteria on, in, and around you with antibacterial compounds weakens one line of defense your body uses against disease organisms.

Microorganisms not only protect us by competing with potentially dangerous organisms, they teach the immune system how to function.  “The immune system organizes itself through experience, just like the brain,” says Dr. Irun R. Cohen of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.  A growing number of researchers are finding evidence to support what is known as “the hygiene hypothesis,” which attributes the dramatic rise in the prevalence of asthma and other allergies to lack of exposure to diverse microorganisms found in soil and untreated water.  “The cleaner we live…the more likely we’ll get asthma and allergies,” states Dr. David Rosenstreich, director of Allergy and Immunology at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York (9).

So, just say “no” to Triclosan as an ingredient in hygiene products and all the other products in which it is found.

And think about all the germ-theory hype a bit more…

Work to build up your immune system…

Tipping Points 8: Drinking Real Milk

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(You may want to read my essays in order.)

April 26, 2010

Tipping Points 8

Drinking Real Milk

 

I started drinking real milk as an act of faith four years ago.  I can still remember how shocked I was that anyone would risk drinking real milk when my neighbor casually said how lucky she felt to have been able to buy real milk locally for her children.  I did not try it right away.  I asked other friends if they drank “real milk,” began to read labels, and began to notice how much of our milk is now ultrapasteurized.  I will confess that I am now addicted to raw milk. 

I recently traveled to Norfolk, Virginia, which is a wasteland for the kind of quality food we enjoy in Maine.  The best I could do for milk was organic whole milk that was homogenized and ultrapasteurized.  To my surprise it tasted bitter, as does milk that has been allowed to boil.  And, it had none of the silky smoothness or the energy, the feeling of life held in a living product, that I experience with real milk. 

Ron Schmid, in THE UNTOLD STORY OF MILK (2009), notes that “milk in general—both pasteurized and raw—is a particularly safe food.”  In 1997, “milk and milk products accounted for only two tenths of one percent of all reported cases of food-borne illness.”  However, when an outbreak occurs, it “usually involves many individuals” (274). 

But, does commercial milk supports human health?  Schmid argues that commercial milk is a compromised product that can and does produce allergic reactions and chronic illness. 

Schmid discusses two competing paradigms which emerged in France in the 1860s:  Louis Pasteur’s germ theory, or the belief that germs cause illness, and Claude Bernard’s milieu interieur theory, or the belief that “illnesses are caused by a failure of the immune system to adequately cope with infectious agents” (43).  Robert Koch’s discovery and isolation of the organisms causing tuberculosis and cholera (1880s) gave Pasteur’s germ theory broad acceptance.  But, Schmid notes, this “mechanistic understanding of disease banished the individual’s power to prevent it and placed the mandate to cure squarely in the hands of the medical professionals” who became allies with the drug companies, since the belief arose also that disease germs could only be “overwhelmed and eliminated” by drugs (46-47). 

Yet, Schmid notes, “ample evidence existed to support Bernard’s alternative theory” of the strong immune system (47).  And recent studies by the Institute for Genomic Research (2008) demonstrate that a healthy human body carries about six pounds of beneficial bacteria which perform myriad tasks, to include creating conditions where pathogens cannot take hold (48). 

Dr. J.E. Crewe, a Mayo Foundation founder, practiced milk cures in the 1920s and 1930s.  White blood (real milk), fed exclusiverly to patients, built up resistance and produced results that Dr. Crewe claimed were so “ `uniformly excellent that one’s conception of disease and its alleviation is necessarily changed’ “ (83).  

Dr. Francis M. Pottenger’s studies on hundreds of cats over 10 years showed that those fed raw milk “thrived with virtually no illness” and produced “generation after generation of healthy cats” (92).  Cats fed pasteurized milk; evaporated milk; or condensed, sweetened milk became diseased and were “eventually unable to reproduce.”  These cats, writes Schmid, were “highly susceptible to infectious and chronic illness and exhibited degenerative skeletal changes” (92).

Dr. Edward Howell, who died in 2000 at 102 years, was considered by many nutritionists to be “the world’s leading expert on enzymes” (10).  Dr. Howell believed enzymes facilitate “ `every chemical reaction that occurs in our body’ “ (10).  He believed that one is born with “ `a certain enzyme potential,’ “ and if we use up our supply of enzyme activity too quickly, we die.  Thus, eating enzyme rich foods, among them real milk, helps our body preserve its enzyme potential, while eating refined foods uses up our enzyme potential.

Dr. Weston Price, a dentist, traveled the world in the 1930s to study healthy people.  The archive he left gives invaluable testimony about the foods healthy people ate.  Dr. Price demonstrated through biochemical analysis that native diets of healthy people were “rich in nutrients poorly supplied in modern diets” (139).  Included in the list of foods commonly used by some of the healthy people Dr. Price studied are whole milk, cheese, and butter from grass-fed animals (141). 

Numerous qualified observers in the early 1900s reported that cancer, diabetes, tuberculosis, and dental caries did not exist among Eskimos who ate a nutrient-dense, high protein, high-fat diet rich in fermented foods and kelp (110-115).  Nomadic peoples, some of whom exist today, consumed meat; meat fat; organs; and whole, real milk from healthy pasture-fed animals and fermented and foraged foods (112). 

Enzymes process human food.  When we eat, food initially rests in the upper part of our stomachs for thirty to forty-five minutes where the enzymes in the food itself begin digestion.  When the lower stomach opens, the body has to secrete enzymes and acids to process food.  Thus, people eating enzyme-rich foods stress the body less (104-105). 

Milk contains eight identifiable enzymes which facilitate the utilization and digestion of milk.  Fermenting milk enhances these enzymes.  Two of these enzymes destoy pathogens.  Indeed, Schmid notes, lactoferrin was approved by the FDA in 2004 “for use as an anti-microbial spray to combat virulent E. coli contamination in the meat industry” (107).  Pasteurization destroys these enzymes and most of the vitamins C, B6, and B12  and changes the “physical and chemical state of calcium and other minerals that affect absorption” (108). 

Homogenization “crushes milk by forcing it under high pressure and temperature through holes in a die” (250).  People used to judge the quality of their milk by the layer of cream on the top of the glass bottle (250, 262).  The campaign to break down consumer resistence to homogenization took thirty years, but by the 1950s the milk industry “succeeded in convincing Americans to accept a product designed solely for the profit and convenience of manufacturers and distributors” (251). 

After pasteurization and homogenization, milk can be “transported over long distances and stored for a long time” (250).  And, ultrapasterized milk does not require refrigeration if stored in an airtight container.        

Inside a milk factory, all milk is combined and then “separated in centrifuges into fat, protein and various other solids and liquids.”  Then milk is reconstituted at standarized levels for whole, lowfat, and nonfat milk (240).  Homogenization permitted the industry to standardize the cream levels to 3 ½ percent from the 4 to 8 percent butterfat levels of pasture-fed cows.  The skimmed cream makes profitable products for the industry, like ice cream (262), where, as reading labels shows, the cream is further stretched with additives. 

However, Schmid writes, “when fat is removed, it is replaced with protein-and-vitamin-rich skimmed milk powder or concentrate.”  But, drying milk both produces nitrates, “which are potent carcinogens,” and causes “oxidation of the cholesterol in milk.”  Oxidized cholesterol initiates “the process of injury and pathological plaque build-up in the arteries.”  Finally, “the body needs vitamin A to assimilate protein,” so when we “consume foods rich in protein without the supporting fats,” the body “draws on the vitamin A stored in the liver”—a depletion which begins “ushering in a host of diseases.”  Adding calcium and synthetic vitamins to milk, Schmid writes, is “unlikely to benefit consumers…since synthetic versions are poorly absorbed and may often have toxic effects” (217).  Nonfat dried milk is not listed on the label since the FDA allows this practice as an industry standard (240-242).   

So, cooking milk, fracturing its chemical components, and adding additives changes real milk drastically.  Certainly the industrial process is introducing new and dangerous pathogens into milk. 

Schmid cautions that anyone who has undergone chemotherapy should not drink raw milk as it is a living food.  But, he notes also statistics from a 2003 USDA/FDA/CDC paper showing that “deli meats are ten times more likely to cause illness than raw milk” and that pasteurized milk is twenty-nine times more likely (320). 

Here in Maine, we are so lucky.  We can buy delicious, nutrient-dense raw milk from local farmers in our local markets.  My children can and do buy real milk in South Carolina, too.  Those of you who live elsewhere can go to the Real Milk website, www.realmilk.com, to locate real milk sources. 

So, go ahead, refuse to let the milk industry and the government scare you.  Buy local real milk!