Monday, July 23, 2012


I might just skip the food lists and go straight to my topic today, since I'm a week behind.

What I've been thinking about this week, though, is a nasty stomach bug that went through all our peers and knocked them out of commission.  It's all people were talking about for a week or two, and from what I hear, it was extremely sudden-onset and virulent, no one escaped unscathed...

...except us.

So, in one conversation afterwards, someone was marveling that we didn't catch it, and ascribed it to our "healthy eating".  I'm really not sure, I suppose it's possible, it certainly is our one strength; but the other families that did catch it are also pretty dang healthy eaters.  Homemade bread and growing their own veggies and all.

So then, by chance, I was watching an interesting TED talk about our body's vast community of microbes and how they keep us healthy (think the current buzzword of probiotics*).  Researchers are just starting to scratch the surface of the subject, with the help of modern advances in DNA sequencing, but what they've got is starting to look pretty cool.

So, I did a quick little search about germs, and found this article from a year or so ago, The Great Unwashed, which among the mostly anecdotal stories of people who've stopped using deodorant contained this little gem: 

"Resist the urge to recoil at this swath of society: They may be on to something. Of late, researchers have discovered that just as the gut contains good bacteria that help it run more efficiently, so does our skin brim with beneficial germs that we might not want to wash down the drain. 'Good bacteria are educating your own skin cells to make your own antibiotics,' said Dr. Richard Gallo, chief of the dermatology division at thUniversity of California, San Diego, and 'they produce their own antibiotics that kills off bad bacteria.' "  (Which makes me want to veer off into a tangent about how this is also what supposedly happens in raw milk, but I'll resist!)

So here's the big leap I made:  Maybe it's not our diet that makes my family less susceptible to illness.  (This is NOT the first time we've missed a local epidemic, our rate of catching bugs compared to our friends would probably show up as statistically significant over time.)  Maybe it's chance, or that we're antisocial, or something else; but maybe, just maybe, it's because we don't bathe obsessively?

If you read my post about water consumption, or if you just know us really well, you know that we only bathe our kids once a week.  Our older ones, who are starting to need deodorant and have acne, are adding another one or two showers in if I remind them often enough.  And S. and I have various levels that are our sort of minimum, but neither of us washes hair more than about once a week, for example.  So far no one has called us on it.

(Oops, S. informed me that after briefly experimenting with going longer between washes, he does still shampoo every other day.  He's a professional and all, so I guess he's staying mainstream!)

As a side note, relating to "needing" to shower because you're sweaty, I read a pretty cool Runner's World article somewhere that mentioned in passing that you have different kinds of sweat -- the nervous, stinky, greasy kind that stains your armpits yellow, and the unoffending salt-watery kind that drips off of your whole self when you really work out.  It was very interesting, and may have additional implications for personal hygiene...

Anyway, it may be a counterintuitive theory, and it conveniently supports our lazy/hippie hygiene habits, but I thought it was worth pointing out that cleaner isn't necessarily better.  

*I can't find the exact wording right here, but the marketing on this stuff drives me crazy: there's some common yogurt proclaiming that it contains the "most researched probiotic!"  Think about that, really...

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