How to Avoid Skin Oversensitization? The Microbiome and Excessive Body Cleaning | SMart Choice Lifestyle

The smell of fresh cut grass and home-baked bread, followed by a delicious breakfast with hot cocoa, raspberry or rose organic jam, a soft boiled egg that was steaming when you opened it and dipped a bit of bread crust into that perfect orange yolk. And then off to play outside for the rest of the day, or until lunch. This was most of my childhood spent at grandma's!

If you have memories like these, you also remember that the outside world wasn’t our enemy, like it’s often portrayed today. We glorify interiors, houses and running water. Those are fine, trust me! Living without them would be manageable, but certainly not a pleasure. As we have all these comforts, we also develop many products with which we can keep it all clean and sanitary.

As time goes by, we drift further and further from nature, living in aseptic environments that keep us safe from all the germs and bacteria outside. Infections and especially bacterial ones are nasty, even life threatening if left untreated. But there’s another side of the coin that we usually tend to miss: too much cleaning and sanitizing actually could damage us even more.

How’s that?

Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did not have access to the vast array of personal hygiene and house cleaning items that we do now. I’m not saying that it was an extremely healthy environment in most cases, but the irony is that fewer people got sick or even fewer had allergies from a young age. People were more able to work with their surroundings, instead of against them.

Our bodies are custom made for living in nature. They adapt to the environments we’re in and develop immune tools to keep us safe from illness. That’s their main goal: survival. For ages, humans have been living in synergy with the natural world, taking care of it and reaping its fruits in return. People lived according to what nature provided them and our bodies adapted according to what we had to deal with on a day to day basis.

Bacteria isn’t all bad. Actually, the microbiome as it is called, helps us stay alive. It protects us against germs, breaks down food to release energy, and produces vitamins. It “consists of the 10-100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells harbored by each person, primarily bacteria in the gut”. The human microbiome is in constant exchange  with our environment, human microbes flow freely onto the surfaces we interact with on a daily basis. Microbial communities are constantly being transferred between surfaces, our bodies being constantly adapting to the place we live in.

Thus excessive sensitization via all kinds of disinfectants, antibacterial soaps and personal hygiene products is similar to the effects that antibiotics have inside the body. Too much consumption and that good microbial barrier is disrupted, making way for opportunistic bacteria that can damage the skin or our body’s health.

Our body’s default defense mechanism, called the immune system, has the power to regulate all these little armies of good bacteria and to keep them in tune with the rest of our bodies, while keeping a careful watch on foreign pathogens. When we disinfect to often, our immunity overreacts, and begins to think everything's a threat. Given the fact that our environments are so clean, the simplest nasty bacteria that once had no impact over our body, begins to have one now.

For people living with Multiple Sclerosis, things are even more... sensitive. Given the treatments that we need to take, our immune systems are lowered, already putting the body at risk to infections and other damage that might occur.

I'm not saying that it's a must, but we need to be even more cautious and help our health as best we can. Over-sanitizing or under-sanitizing are neither the best way, as they are extremes. Taking care of your personal hygiene and house cleaning shouldn't go there. Keep it simple, keep it basic.

But first, let's go back to nature...

There are three things that you can do to minimize the impact, all under the same umbrella: progressive desensitization to the natural world. For a person that has been living indoors most of her life, going wild with these tools seems a bit out of place. This is a process, and you should only do what makes you feel comfortable and what suits your lifestyle. But do try the following:

  1. Reduce toxic load from your personal hygiene products and house cleaners. The safest way I found to do this is to replace one nasty chemical with a more natural choice. Only a couple of examples: use regular hand soap for your day to day hand wash. Only use antibacterial ones when you’ve worked with other chemicals or if you’ve been to the hospital; the same goes for hand sanitizers: you don’t need them at home, where it’s supposed to be clean); use sodium bicarbonate to get rid of nasty smells in your refrigerator (and try to clean the entire interior once a week, using a solution made of 1 part apple cider vinegar and 3 parts water).
  2. Go out in nature more! Walking around in fresh air and being around trees and grass not only is beneficial for your fitness, but also for your mind. It can be a powerful destresser and a good time to relax. Depending on where you live, plan small or large trips to classic destinations like the local park, the nearby forest or a weekend to the mountains. No matter what you choose, nature will always pay back tenfold! Of course you have to protect yourself from falls, bees or other dangers, so make sure you learn a thing or two about how to take care of issues like these if they arise.
  3. Take up urban gardening. Depending on where you live, you can create a small or a large one. Either way, it could only be just some pots you have on your balcony, but the goal is to allow yourself time to think and work with your hands. To allow yourself to get back in touch with good bacteria in nature. I personally recommend gardening without any chemicals, letting the plant grow on its own terms, while I tend to its needs and help it on the way. Great activity to bring nature back in the city!

These were my three ideas on how you can begin to bring your body back from the aseptic world and right into the natural one. Bit by bit, you’ll adapt. It’s a process. You have to have patience! But more about that in another article.

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Sincerely yours,

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