No matter how loudly any idealistic raw foodist evangelizes about being immune to sunburn, resistant to jet lag or impervious to other travelers’ maladies, raw food has offered me none of the aforementioned inoculations. Without fail, I am laid out flat with four days of fever, delirium and dysentery while my body purges parasites innate to third-world water supplies. During those desperately ill moments, I am thankful for the thorough waste-management system in the US (we take indoor plumbing for granted, really, we do). But I am also aware, thanks to my third-world-country adventures, that waste management is one thing and sterilization is another.
A Cure Worse Than the Disease?
We may not get sick from parasites in the United States, but we do get sick from the chemicals we use to kill them. We can manage waste properly without bleaching our toilet paper, bleaching our counter tops, bleaching our sugar, bleaching our teeth and fluoridating our drinking water. With “unexplained” thyroid disorders, childhood obesity, young-adult cancers and allergies commonplace, I question which is the more dangerous: living organisms or cleaning agents.
Sometimes I wonder if all the US’s sterilization hasn’t actually made me more susceptible to the critters that live in the drinking water in Chiang Mai’s jungle, for example. I knew better than to drink it, and didn’t. So was it the water on my tooth brush in Chiang Mai’s jungle responsible for the digestive sneak attack? Was it the unwashed street-vendor fruit in Rio that left me in fever and delirious for 36 hours straight? Strangely enough, the residents of these places did not seem to suffer the same maladies. At least not as often.
Perhaps our obsession with sterilization (fear of nature?) is precisely what strengthened the invading parasite’s blow. Maybe if I had encountered bacteria and viruses and parasites on a regular basis, my body would handle them like the locals. I hope that we, in the United States, are not making ourselves more susceptible to traumatic illness by over sterilization. What an ironic shame.
I keep these two things in mind when cleaning my home: First, a lifetime of chemical accumulation eventually causes incurables; and second, like homeopathy, a body exposed to natural bacteria, fungus and mold knows what to do with them. Within reason, of course. I ama huge fan of septic systems, as I mentioned in the first paragraph. I’m not advocating “finding peace” with the cockroaches. I am advocating disinfecting no more than necessary and maintaining a naturally hygienic home based on knowledge of how bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and molds thrive.
Remember that sinks are not the cause of cockroaches. Dirty dishes are the cause of cockroaches. No dirty dishes, no cockroaches. It’s the same for internal health.
Method Acting a Germ’s Role
If I were a germ, virus or other hygiene malady, where would I be? In standing water, preferably somewhere warm. According to John Oxford, head of the Hygiene Council and professor of virology at St. Bartholomew’s and the Royal London Hospital, the eight germiest places in the home are, in this order; kitchen cloths or sponges, kitchen faucets, tubs and showers, pet food dishes, microwave touch screens, TV remotes, light switches, baby changing tables. Notice: the toilet is not on this list. Again, if I were a germ, I would live in standing water, preferably somewhere warm. The constant flushing of the toilet makes it more difficult for germs to live there than say, the edges of the sink.
Specific Natural Cleaning Tips
Let’s take a look at each perpetrator individually and how to deal with it: