Worried about breeding Super Bugs at home?
10 most effective ways to keep the bugs at bay at home, without encouraging superbugs.
We owe our long lives and good health to two types of chemical and both kill bugs. One is antibiotics, and the other is disinfectants.
But the cost of these two types of chemical use and particularly their overuse is incredibly high in terms of the disruption to our immune systems, and the rise of super bugs that have the health authorities terrified, and are fast making hospitals one of the most likely places where you will catch a fatal infection.
Yep you read right. Going to hospital for something safe, puts you more at risk of deadly infection now than at any time in the past 50 years.
If you know what makes your average bug tick then you can do much to change the likelihood your family will fall victim to something nasty. So instead of using disinfectant and antiseptic handwash at home try these top 10 tips.
So what can You do?
10 Take time. Most bugs have a very high die off rate. So time is an incredibly easy thing to use to manage the population of bugs. You don’t have to maintain things in a spotless state all of the time, just for the period where sensitive things are being done.
If you have to do something dirty then once you’ve finished remove the dirt, and just allow time to do it’s work.
Take a look at a surgical theatre. The staff create what are called sterile fields. They know that the patients body is completely covered in bugs but they are slow to migrate, so they don’t try and kill them all off, but rather just sterilise a small area and cover the rest in sterile cloths. They rely on the slow spread, and are happy to just allow the bugs to start creeping back from the edges.
You can use this knowledge yourself in the kitchen. Just concentrate on a safe area immediately around where you are working.
9 Bugs need to feed – The reason bugs grow on our food, and the grime we create is because their appetites aren’t that different to ours. So don’t feed them if you can help it. Think anything we like to eat the bugs like too, and add to that pretty much any part of our bodies, including the smelly stuff, because bugs love all of that too.
The easy way to do this is to remove left over food away from where you will later prepare food again. Remember bugs will linger in unlikely places so try not to have lots of cracks and places where food can remain and other conditions for growth to prosper
8 Bugs don’t like it too cold. Most bugs won’t grow to fast if it’s chilly, that’s why we keep food in the fridge or freezer.
So where is the best place to put the left over food – even if it is still hot? The fridge or freezer. The single best thing is to drop that temperature in those left-overs as fast as possible.
The colder the better, but generally below 6c is the best option.
Remember the bugs will still be alive even at super cold temperatures, but the colder it gets the slower they grow. So putting bacteria laden food into the freezer, will lead to bacteria laden food coming out when you thaw it! It needs to be clean before refrigeration or freezing.
7 Bugs aren’t too keen on the heat. Over about 70c most bacteria not only stop growing but also commence dying off.
The farmers worked this out when they tried to make milk safer for you to drink. See milk from the cow is full of bugs but just fifteen seconds at 72c is widely considered to do the trick. This doesn’t kill them all off, but it sure makes a dent in the population. There are lots of reasons why pasteurising may not be the choice you would want to make, but most health authorities agree with the approach and it sure kills bugs.
As opposed to freezing which pretty much just stops more bugs growing, heat is one approach that really kills off bugs. So food with high populations of bugs really is best cooked, and cooked thoroughly.
6 Oxygen finishes most bugs. Most disinfectants work by what is called oxidisation. What else works in this way other than disinfectants? – well our air is full of oxygen and it works exactly the same. The bacteria are adapted to this and can survive a short period of contact with the air, especially if there is some water or grime to protect them, but soon enough they die when exposed to air.
So with your food preparation areas all you need do is leave the area clean and then allow the air to do it’s magic.
How else can you practically use this information? A great example is going to the bathroom. It makes perfect sense to wash your hands afterwards, but what happens if you can’t get access to safe water? Time will deal with the worst of the bugs that have made their way to your hands, especially if your hands are dry and relatively free of grime. Providing conditions aren’t open to growth then die offs for half of a population for most bugs that would lead to food poisoning, and for that matter most other illnesses are around 10 to 20 minutes.
5 Sunlight will do more than bleach your hair. The sunlight is highly disruptive to most bugs, and will finish off most of them if unprotected very quickly.
So why do many people think of food poisoning as being something you get when on holiday in the tropics? Well the other thing bacteria love is warmth, and there is plenty of that around when you are at the tropical paradise. All that is needed then is for the bacteria to find moisture and protected a bit from the sun and air, and the trips to the bathroom may be frequent.
If you are on a camping holiday then after washing food preparation areas down then leave them exposed to the sun. It will seriously dent the population of bugs that you don’t want introduced into the next food you prepare.
4 Most bugs need water – so deny them this, if you want to control their growth. Nearly all bacteria will either die or become inactive if there is insufficient water. You need to be aware that these inactive bugs will spring back into action once sufficient water is added again.
This is why you can dry out meat and it will be safe, the same goes for dried fruit, and almost any other food. In a weird way it is also why jam will keep in the cupboard too. It seems wet, but actually there is not enough water for most bugs to quickly grow.
So how do we use this knowledge? – Just focus of drying off food preparation areas after use and the bugs won’t carry on multiplying in those areas. Same goes in the bathroom and other areas too.
3 The bug world is pretty competitive. Bugs are everywhere, and they are all competing for resources. Not all bugs are a problem to us, in fact most are very friendly, we can do a lot of things to encourage the friendly ones so there are fewer resources left for the unfriendly ones.
For thousands of years we have been pickling foods of all types. This encourages certain bugs to flourish which are positively helpful for our bodies, other examples are fermenting foods (including beer and wine) and making cultured foods like yoghurt. Many indigenous peoples in the world today get by using these techniques alone and suffer very little food based illness.
2 It’s time to put your immune system into training. One of the worst outcomes of the persistent use of disinfectants and antibiotics is that our immune systems are losing the ability to handle minor infections. Our digestive systems themselves carry about 80% of all the bugs in our body and they also handle the bulk of our immune activity. If the food coming in is killed of all the beneficial bugs we need then the balance of the bugs changes inside us and the result is an immune system that doesn’t work too well.
Most disease that we suffer and nearly all of the things that cause us to age fall under the heading of inflammation. Bugs along with lots of other environmental factors contribute much to how our immune system is promoting inflammatory response. Getting the most healthy immune system therefore means our entire health is dramatically improved as well.
1 We are more bug than human. It’s time we “fessed up”, our own cells are outnumbered by bacteria inside our bodies by more than 2 to 1. In fact we have about 30 trillion of our own cells and a healthy person will have about 70 trillion bacteria, all living very harmoniously all throughout your body. There are no accurate counts of the number of viruses inside the body of a healthy person, but it is likely that there will be many times more viruses than there are bacteria. Once again we need these viruses to help us do many of things the body needs to do.
So why would we want to kill them off? It is clear that without our wonderful community of bugs that we would not live. A good example is the process of digesting and creating nutrients from our food, which would be impossible without their help.
The rampant use of disinfectants in our food processing means that the variation of bugs entering our bodies is becoming far more limited. This situation is made far worse by the residues of agricultural chemicals, which have a very negative effect on our helpful bugs too.
Choosing foods with low pesticide, and herbicide residues will help a lot here, as will looking for foods which have high quantities of these healthy bugs. Food like fermented vegetables, and milk products are a good place to start.