sterile white couch in an all white room

Your House Paint May Contain Gut-Harming Antimicrobials

I’ve talked about all of the trouble associated antibacterial products (preventing the development of bacteria) and antimicrobial products (preventing the spread of fungi, viruses and bacteria) too many times to count on my blog.

Over-sterilizing your life creates lots of problems for your gut microbiome. And, this doesn’t include exposures to all sorts of things under our very noses — from yoga mats to common personal care products like toothpaste — that contain gut bacteria-robbing chemicals.

Could the latex paint that lines the walls of your home be another problem hiding in plain sight?

Antimicrobial latex paints put to the test

Researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago tested the effect of three kinds of antimicrobial, synthetic latex paints (formulated to improve indoor air quality) on bacteria in a study featured in the journal, Indoor Air.

To reproduce the typical home environment, scientists painted a group of 2×2-inch squares of drywall twice (with a day in between applications for drying), added tiny drops of water and placed them in sealed glass jars.

Then, some of the samples were exposed to five forms of bacteria taken from gym facilities that are commonly found in homes.

Within a day, all but one of the bacterial species — the spore-forming Bacillus timonensis — had died. The concern: Most bacteria die on dry, cold surfaces, but why not this one?

Spreading bacteria where it shouldn’t be

When bacteria are attacked with antimicrobial chemicals, they will mount a defense, says lead researcher Erica Hartmann. “Bacillus is typically innocuous, but by attacking it, you might prompt it to develop more antibiotic resistance.”

Spore-forming bacteria like Bacillus timonensis protect themselves on painted surfaces by lying dormant for a time, and resisting harsh conditions until they reactivate.

By now, you’re probably wondering why paint companies don’t test their antimicrobial products on common forms of bacteria. That was the gist of the test, Hartman says.

All too often, companies test their products on how E. coli — considered by some to be the “lab rat” of the microbial world — and Staphylococcus survive, yet ignore other microbes people encounter every day.

“We should be judicious in our use of antimicrobial products to make sure that we’re not exposing the more harmless bacteria to something that could make them harmful,” Hartmann says.

Protecting your immune health

The presence of antimicrobial cleaners and paints in our lives can create a “too clean for our own good” environment that hurts our health in many ways.

Exposure to antibacterial and antimicrobial products, even those seemingly as benign as paint, can harm us by eroding the delicate balance of bacteria in our gut.

Maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria helps our body do critical things like fortifying our immune systems and creating nearly all of the serotonin our bodies need.

Taking a good probiotic, ideally with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic, is an easy way to protect your overall health and your gut from antibacterial products that may hiding on your walls, countertops and elsewhere.

Are You Over-Sterilizing Your Life?

Keeping your body clean hasn’t been easier than it is today, but is there such a thing as being too clean?

No matter where you go — the supermarket, your local gym or even a neighborhood yoga class — antimicrobial chemicals have invaded our living spaces, creating an environment that’s become “too clean” for our own good.

The use of antimicrobial chemicals like triclosan may have seemed like a good idea at one time. However, that perception changed radically a few years ago when health problems related to the hygiene hypothesis and its lingering effect on our immune systems began lessening the natural ability of our bodies to fight disease.

Although triclosan has been the main focus for these problems, some of its notoriety faded when the FDA took the major step of banning it from antibacterial soaps and most body washes in 2016.

Despite the ban, triclosan can still be found in some personal care products (review the Environmental Working Group’s most current list) including some toothpastes as well as lining common consumer products like yoga/exercise mats and gym equipment.

That’s where a new health problem lies in plain sight…

Antibiotic resistance in dust?

This stealth invasion of triclosan in our environment may be creating antibiotic-resistant dust, according to a recent study appearing in mSystems.

Researchers at Northwestern University discovered this problem after collecting dust samples from 42 athletic facilities in the Pacific Northwest.

Study leader and associate professor Dr. Erica Hartman chose gyms due to the contact people have with mats, floors and gym equipment and how many clean them before and after using them with antimicrobial wipes.

Concerns arose when Hartman’s team collected dust from athletic spaces, hallways and offices, then examined the bacteria hiding in dust, and its genetic makeup.

Antimicrobial chemicals were the most concentrated in dust found in moist spots and gym spaces and in higher levels in rooms with carpeted floors or rubber mats.

In samples with higher levels of triclosan, scientists found genetic markers directly linked to antibiotic resistance and, specifically, medically relevant antibiotic drugs.

“There is this conventional wisdom that says everything that’s in dust is dead, but that’s not actually the case. There are things living in there,” says Dr. Hartman, according to Northwestern Now.

Trying to keep workout spaces clean for yourself and others creates a larger health problem with antibiotic-resistant infections, potentially leaving you vulnerable to superbugs.

Unfortunately, manufacturers of products like yoga mats aren’t required to disclose antibacterial chemicals like triclosan in their labeling, because their safety is governed by the EPA, not the FDA, Dr. Hartman says.

So, how do you protect your health and environment surrounding you from being “too clean?”

  1. Avoid products that are labeled with terms like fights germs, fights odors or antibacterial, according to experts at the National Resources Defense Council Health Program.
  1. Review the product labels of any personal care products you’re buying at the grocery store for anything that you suspect includes antibacterial chemicals (look for a future blog about triclosan in toothpaste).
  1. Protect your immune health the safe and natural way by taking a probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic that contains 10 strains of beneficial bacteria, plus a prebiotic (FOS) that feeds the good bacteria in your gut.
a plate of delicious looking veggies

More Food Additives May Harm Your Gut

We warned you recently about a gut bacteria connection to nitrites, a common food additive that may be a trigger for migraines. However, nitrites aren’t the only potential problem harming your gut health.

Your gut health may undergo changes or be compromised by chemical preservatives added to an array of foods, based on the results of two new studies.

Are antimicrobials benign?

As we’ve seen time and again, the use of antibacterial soaps and antibiotics has created unintended problems that have often made us too clean for our good.

Antimicrobial compounds work like antibacterials, with one key exception: Antibacterials prevent the spread of bacteria alone, while antimicrobials eliminate a wider range of critters, including viruses, yeasts, fungi and bacteria.

In a surprise to scientists at the University of Massachusetts, one specific antimicrobial compound – the food-grade polymer, polylysine — was responsible for the temporary disruption of gut bacteria in mice, according to a study appearing in Science of Food.

Polylysine is used as a food preservative in Korea and Japan as well as foods imported to America. (It’s commonly used in boiled rice, noodles, cooked rice and sushi.)

Over 15 weeks, researchers studied fecal samples taken from male and female mice that were fed polylysine at three different times (the beginning then at five and nine weeks).

“The concentrations of gut microbes changed in response to polylysine as we fed the mice throughout the study,” said Dr. David Sela, a nutritional biologist and lead study author, according to a press release.

“Surprisingly, the microbiome snapped back to the original concentrations despite continuous feeding of the polylysine, but we don’t understand how or the potential relevance to health.”

By week 5 of their study, the microbiomes of mice given polylysine had changed, but shifted back to normal at week 9.

It’s obvious that the microbiomes of mice adapted to this antimicrobial compound for reasons scientists can’t explain. Is that a good thing? And, how does this affect gut health over a longer time?

Is wine harming your gut?

Researchers at the University of Hawai’i Maui were far more definitive about the effect sulfites – a food preservative used in baked goods, beer and wine and canned vegetables just to name a few — have on the beneficial bacteria in your body, and it’s not good.

FDA regulations limit sulfites in processed foods to 5,000 parts per million, not a great amount. Nevertheless, some people are very sensitive to sulfites and must avoid them.

Researchers exposed four bacterial species in the human microbiome (from the Lactobacillus and Streptococcus families) to concentrations of two common kinds of sulfites (sodium bisulfite and sodium sulfite) in smaller concentrations (10-3,780 ppm) for up to six hours for a study appearing in PLOS One.

Unfortunately, these sulfites were responsible for killing or inhibiting the growth of beneficial bacteria, results that lead researcher Dr. Sally Irwin says could be a direct link between diseases and changes in the human microbiome.

Yes, food additives are a problem for people who are sensitive to them, but these results certainly shed a new light on what’s considered “safe” and “healthy.”All the more reason to protect and fortify your health with a multi-species probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic with 10 essential species of beneficial bacteria plus a prebiotic that feeds the good guys in your gut.

Gut bacteria can change very quickly

If you read our blog regularly, you appreciate how good gut health, supported by taking a multi-species probiotic, affects the overall quality of your bodily health, from lowering your blood pressure to obesity.

However, an important part of treating any health condition is knowing how long it will take before your health returns to normal.

A pair of American studies published this year have concluded the human gut microbiome is uniquely flexible and may change in as little as a single day, a good thing to know when monitoring health problems like inflammatory bowel disease.

The microbial shift between diets is fast!

In one study published in Nature, Harvard University scientists tested the composition of gut bacteria on humans after discovering how flexible and responsive the microbiomes of mice were each day.

Researchers tested their premise on nine human volunteers who were prescribed radically different diets for five days with a break in between them. (The gut health of the nine patients was tested before, during and after each diet.)

The first diet centered on meats and cheeses—ribs, eggs and bacon—then followed after a break by a high-fiber diet focused on plant-based foods—granola, lentils, fruits, rice and vegetables.

“The relative abundance of various bacteria species looked like it shifted within a day after the food hit the gut,” Duke University researcher Lawrence David told

After three days on each diet, the collective behavior of human microbiota had changed along with the way gut bacteria behaved.

Checking your microbiota easy as checking out an iPhone app

MIT researchers came up with similar findings, published in Genome Biology, and were helped with the use of an iPhone app.

The two study participants were monitored for a full year via the collection of daily stool samples and tracking various health measures (sleep, exercise, emotions, diet) using an iPhone app.

“On any given day, the amount of one species could change manyfold, but after a year, that species would still be at the same median level,” explained Eric Alm, MIT associate professor and senior author of the paper. “To a large extent, the main factor we found that explained a lot of that variance was the diet.”

For example, increases in dietary fiber matched boosts in Roseburia, Eubacterium rectale and Bifidobacterium (one of the species contained in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Advanced Junior).

During the yearlong study period, both subjects became sickened, which changed their gut bacteria considerably. In both cases, the relationship between specific groups of bacteria and diet occurred in one day.

While living in a developing country, one patient experienced a two-week bout of diarrhea and severe problems with his microbiota. However, once he returned stateside, his microbiota recovered and returned to its original composition.

Interestingly, the second patient experienced food poisoning fueled by Salmonella. During that time, Salmonella levels tripled to 30 percent of the gut microbiome while the Firmicutes phylum of beneficial bacteria almost vanished.

Beneficial levels of Firmicutes bacteria increased with the patient’s recovery to some 40 percent, but the strains were different from those present at the start.

The long-term goal of this research, said Dr. Alm, is to ease the data collection process so patients suffering from inflammatory bowel syndrome or other diseases could be fitted with a personalized monitoring system that warns them ahead of a flare-up so it can be avoided.

What is C diff colitis?

What is C diff colitis?

If you’re not protecting yourself from Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections, you should be. Chances are better than good, however, you don’t know what C. diff infections really are.

Brace yourself: It’s a “super” kind of bacteria that attacks the lining of your intestines. Worse? It’s on the rise in hospitals.

Earlier, we wrote about the negative effects of superbugs like C. diff, a bacterium known for causing antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Roughly 14,000 Americans die due to C. diff infections every year. Even worse, the number and severity of C. diff cases has exploded over the last decade.

Unfortunately, taking too many antibiotics is only partly to blame for the rise in superbugs. A recent study in Environmental Science and Technology concluded the spread of triclosan, a broad-spectrum antimicrobial compound commonly used in cosmetics, hand sanitizers and toothpastes, has created bacterial resistance problems in streams and rivers in the Midwest.

Although many major manufacturers are starting to phase out triclosan, the damage to our environment is already done. So, what’s the good news?

Recent research highlights several ways to curb C. diff infections:

  1. Try to avoid antibiotics during infancy and childhood as often as you can. This is even more important since antibacterial soap does more harm than good. You may think antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers are the safest things around, but triclosan may alter hormonal levels during development. Also, antibiotics can eradicate helpful gut bacteria that usually stop C. diff. Instead, overusing antibiotics causes C. diff to multiply at high levels.
  2. Breastfeed your children. Why fix what isn’t broken? Research has shown breastfeeding lessens the chance that the breastfed child will fall victim to C. diff infections in adulthood.
  3. Avoid the hospital if you can help it. Superbugs can find their way to you in a place that’s supposed to protect you from them. The number of C. diff infections from 2001-10
  4. Get a fecal transplant. While the very idea may seem disgusting, fecal transplants have proved to be very effective. These procedures can be performed via nasogastric tube, nasojejunal tube, upper tract endoscopy, colonoscopy and retention enema. The $64,000 question: Do you really need a fecal transplant? Probably not.
  5. Use a probiotic. You’d be surprised to learn how much a probiotic, like EndoMune, could help. A review of 31 randomized trials found probiotic use (when given with an antibiotic) reduces the risk of C. diff by 64 percent. According to the study, probiotics improve the balance of gut bacteria and reduce the amount of bad bacteria.

By taking these precautions, you can lower the chances of superbugs like C. diff harming you and your family.

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