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Germs are a big concern for many people. Hand wipes and antibacterial soaps are commonly found in hand bags and on sinks as we scrub and wipe at the sign of any possible contamination. The fear that a pathogenic organism might infect us has created multi-billion dollar industries specializing in antibacterial ingredients that are added to every day soaps and personal care products.

But did you know that washing your hands thoroughly for at least 15 seconds with warm soapy water is as effective as using antibacterial soap? And did you know that antibacterial soap may be contributing to the increase in antibacterial resistance and has been linked to the development of allergies? The antibacterial ingredient in soap—triclosan—was recently studied along with other chemicals commonly found in personal care products.

In the study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, urine levels of seven endocrine disrupting chemicals (chemicals known to interfere with normal hormone function) were analyzed from 860 children aged 6 to 8. Levels of these chemicals were compared to blood levels of the antibody immunoglobulin E (IgE), a common immune marker for allergies. The researchers found that those children who had the highest amounts of triclosan (a chemical also found in mouthwash and toothpaste) also had the highest IgE levels. In addition, those children with the highest levels of antibacterial parabens—propyl-paraben and butyl-paraben—had the highest levels of IgE antibodies to environmental allergens like pollen and pet dander.

Interestingly, the three chemicals found associated to allergy response all have antibacterial qualities. Senior researcher Corinne Keet from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center stated, “This finding highlights the antimicrobial properties of these agents as a probable driving force behind their effect on the immune system.”

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Vitamin D and IBD

Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is characterized by inflammation of the intestines, and is most notably represented as Crohn’s disease, which usually affects the small intestine, but may affect other areas of the digestive tract, and ulcerative colitis, which usually affects the large intestine, or colon.

Two recent studies, presented at the American College of Gastroenterology’s 76th Annual Scientific Meeting, discovered a connection between IBD and vitamin D status, or with latitude of geographic location at age 30. Latitude has been found to be strongly correlated with vitamin D status, because vitamin D is most commonly obtained through UV sun exposure. Those people living at higher latitudes are more likely to have insufficient vitamin D status; thus, the vitamin D connection to IBD.

In one study, it was found that people who lived in northern US latitudes at age 30 were more likely to later develop IBD. The researchers stated, “This differential risk may be explained by differences in UV light exposure, vitamin D status, or pollution.” The risk of developing Crohn’s disease was 50 percent lower in those people living in southern latitudes at age 30, and for ulcerative colitis, it was 35 percent lower.

In the second study, vitamin D3 supplementation was given to Crohn’s patients with low blood levels of vitamin D. The low-dose group received 1,000 IU daily, and the high-dose group received 10,000 IU daily. After 26 weeks of supplementation, there were differences in vitamin D levels, but more importantly, there was a significant improvement of disease symptoms in the high-dose compared to the low-dose group.

So many conditions are affected by insufficient vitamin D levels. If you do not know your vitamin D level, get it checked, even if you live in the south. Most integrative doctors recommend a vitamin D level of at least 50 ng/dL.

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