The right balance of good and bad bacteria in our gut affects our ability to extract nutrients from our food, supports our immune system function and affects mental health. Yet it seems the microbiome of children is potentially compromised by common household products, such as disinfectant cleaners.
The Study of Children’s Microbiome
A new Canadian study analyzed the microbiome of 757 babies. Using the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development birth cohort, the scientists studied the microbes in these children’s fecal matter.
The researchers initially assessed infants at age of 3-4 months. Then, they checked the weight of these your subjects at ages 1 and 3 years. In addition, the researchers used the World Health Organization growth charts to compare the participants’ body mass index to peers their age.
Furthermore, the scientists assessed how often common household products were used in the home of these children. The study included products such as detergents, disinfectant cleaners, and eco-friendly products.
Household Disinfectant Cleaners Impact Home Environment
The findings of the study confirmed that using household disinfectants affects much more than germs living on household surfaces. Researchers discovered that babies 3-4 months old who lived in homes where disinfectants were frequently used had the biggest associations with altered gut flora. The same trend was found in homes that cleaned with disinfectants more frequently.
Specifically, infants from these households had lower levels of Haemophilus and Colstridium bacteria, while levels of Lachnospiraceae were higher.
Anita Kozyrskyj, a University of Alberta pediatrics professor, studies how alterations of the gut microbiome impact long-term health. As the principal investigator on this project, she shares:
We found that infants living in households with disinfectants being used at least weekly were twice as likely to have higher levels of the gut microbes Lachnospiraceae at age 3-4 months; when they were 3 years old, their body mass index was higher than children not exposed to heavy home use of disinfectants as an infant
Eco-friendly Cleaning Products
Interestingly, the Canadian study did not report the same gut biome association with detergents and eco-friendly products. The researchers reported that infants in homes that used eco-friendly cleaners were less likely to be overweight at age 1 and 3, compared to the disinfectant group.
Those infants growing up in households with heavy use of eco cleaners had much lower levels of the gut microbes Enterobacteriaceae. However, we found no evidence that these gut microbiome changes caused the reduced obesity risk.
Of course, it is possible that homes that use eco-friendly products are more conscious in general about living healthy. One must consider that the general health of the parents and the family’s food choices may have also contributed to some of the subjects’ healthier weight.
Clearly, the study brings up a very important point: whatever chemicals you use within your home could end up in your gut. Using antibacterial cleaning products, as well as personal care products such as antibacterial soap, may help keep your home germ-free…but are you willing to risk your family’s long-term health?
Epidemiologists Dr. Noel Mueller and Moira Differding of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health share their findings from another study:
There is biologic plausibility to the finding that early-life exposure to disinfectants may increase risk of childhood obesity through the alterations in bacteria within the Lachnospiraceae family.
Let’s be realistic. It will likely take many more studies for the word to spread about the dangers of the overuse of disinfectant cleaners. As such, it is up to you to make an educated decision that is best for your family and your health.
There are many perfectly safe and effective ways to clean your home naturally. Click here for some simple ideas on how to make your own DIY household cleaners. As well, there are plenty of eco-friendly brands offering a variety of safe home cleaning products.
Read more articles by Anna Hunt.
About the Author
Anna Hunt is writer, yoga instructor, mother of three, and lover of healthy food. She’s the founder of Awareness Junkie, an online community paving the way for better health and personal transformation. She’s also the co-editor at Waking Times, where she writes about optimal health and wellness. Anna spent 6 years in Costa Rica as a teacher of Hatha and therapeutic yoga. She now teaches at Asheville Yoga Center and is pursuing her Yoga Therapy certification. During her free time, you’ll find her on the mat or in the kitchen, creating new kid-friendly superfood recipes.
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