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Ditch the antibacterial soap

Updated: November 15, 2012 10:32PM

This is a reprint of an earlier column.

Q. I hear there’s bad news about an antibacterial ingredient that’s common in soap. With three kids under the age of 8, it’s a germ festival around here. I want to keep things clean. What should I do?

A. We’ve talked about this before, but now there’s new info about triclosan, one of the most potent antibacterials found in loads of household products: It can affect how your heart and other muscles contract. That means it’s time to sound the alarm — again.

What’s wrong with triclosan? The data isn’t definitive, but in the lab, it disrupts hormones and can damage reproductive systems. In the environment, it pollutes water and then transforms into something much worse, the cancer-causing agent dioxin. Like all plentiful antibiotics, it promotes antibiotic resistance, and it’s everywhere.

The good news? Giving up soaps, cleaning products, clothing, paint, cosmetics, hair conditioners and toothpaste with triclosan in them won’t increase your risk of infections. At home, plain soap and water kills germs on hands, kitchen surfaces and clothing just as effectively. (In hospital settings, its original venue, triclosan is sometimes the smart choice.)

Q. I cannot seem to shake my craving for sugar (I use five teaspoons in a cup of coffee) and, truth is, I also think I might drink too much.

A. New insights into opioid (heroin, oxycodone, morphine, etc.) addiction offer a revolutionary understanding of the role of your immune system in getting you hooked. Seems that it may be possible to turn off cravings by blocking receptors on certain immune cells. But even if medications can shut down the body’s response (not yet a reality), you’ll still need to change your behaviors, not just in relationship to your addiction but also to the people around you. Here’s how:

† Ramp up your dopamine reward system with physical activity and meditation. Dopamine is the feel-good brain chemical that’s hijacked by addiction so that it delivers the goods when you take in food, drugs or alcohol. Reset your system with physical activity that removes toxins (everything from fat cells to drugs) and offers a healthy way to feel up.

† Reduce bodywide inflammation that comes with addiction. Eliminate saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sugar syrups, any grains that are not 100 percent whole, and processed foods. Embrace fruits and vegetables.

† Build a support system (family, friends, groups programs, individual therapy) to help you stay on a healthy route to a younger, happier you!

King Features

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