Does Washing Your Hands Often Increase Your Risk of Mental Disorders?

Take everything you know about DNA and genetics and throw it out the window.

Unless you are a geneticist or in the medical field, doing so probably wasn’t very hard. To the layman, our understanding of DNA is fairly limited. We understand DNA is what determines traits such as gender, eye color, hair color, and height. It can determine our chances of inheriting a genetic disease or even an anomaly in the genetic mapping (like Down Syndrome). It has also popularly been attributed to personality traits and mental disorders. In other words, as a society, we put a lot of emphasis on the power of genetics to determine what sort of human beings we become.

DNA vs. Bacteria

Now, there is a new sheriff in town and scientists are pointing the fingers at him for being the real reason –if not, at least, crucial—in what makes us, us. That guy is called the microbiome and it is comprised of bacteria found inside and on the surface of your body. Every microbiome of each human being contains 2 million unique, bacterial genes that determine a substantial amount of how your brain and body function. When compared to the mere 23,000 genes found in our cells, the level of bacteria is incredibly significant when you consider that it produces and regulates hormones and proteins that, in turn, regulate neuroreceptor activity and body functionality. In an attempt to not confuse those of us who are non-scientists, let’s simplify a very convoluted and complex bio-system. Our bodies are made up of a ton of bacteria (yes, the same bacteria found on kitchen floors and bathroom sinks and gas station pumps) and that bacterium is responsible for regulating our mental and physical health.

Here is something all of us regular people probably DO know. In order to avoid catching a cold or some sort of bacterial disease, we must use antibacterial soaps and antibiotics to attack potential invaders. This medical knowledge you can also throw right out the window…at least, for the most part.

Why Antibacterial Anything Can Be More Harm Than Good

It’s not that antibacterial soaps and antibiotic medications don’t work –they do. They work a little too well. The problem is neither knows the difference between “good bacteria” and “bad bacteria.” Essentially antibacterial microbes go into your system and just start attacking any kind of microorganism in their path. This is great if you legitimately have a medical condition caused by bacteria that is making you sick. The problem is a large percentage of the time people get sick, it’s viral and antibiotics simply don’t work on viral illnesses. It has been well documented that doctors often over-prescribe patients with antibiotics without doing a viral test to make sure it is, in fact, bacterial. Every time you ingest antibiotics, you are killing a substantial amount of good bacteria needed to regulate your system. The same concept applies to antibacterial sanitizers and soaps. Overuse of these products kills good bacteria on your skin designed to defend against illnesses. They end up doing exactly the opposite of their

intended purpose. Evidence of these products being ineffective and/or more harmful is so abundant that the FDA banned use of many of these ingredients found in soaps and sanitizers.

A growing percentage of the health and scientific community surmise that an abundant use of these products is resulting in mental imbalances and mood disorders. They believe that lack of healthy gut bacteria is causing a stifling of proper hormone and chemical regulation. In turn, this may account the rise of ADHD, anxiety, depression, OCD and other mental imbalances along with physical problems like irritable bowel syndrome and obesity.

Get Down and Dirty

It is important to remember that antibiotics have their place and can be both necessary and effective in bacteria-borne illnesses. However, the takeaway is that bacteria are a necessary part of life. In fact, it makes up most of life and abundantly using products which kill these necessary bacteria has a long-lasting and negative impact on your physical and mental wellness. So, GET DIRTY! Don’t continually wash your hands. Shower every other day. Lick a toilet if you have to. (No, don’t actually do that) but seriously –your health depends on it