Suit up ladies; It's time for your monthly dose of antibiotics.
DISCLAIMER: I'm not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be one on the internet. This post, and anything else you find here is intended for informational purposes only. If you'd like to view my full disclosure & disclaimer, you can click here.
Chrissy Teagan said it best in her infamous twitter post (below), racking up 15,000 retweets and 125,000 likes. Women are beginning to realize that all of that happy, fun period marketing with the blue liquid and bright white menstrual products just isn't cutting it. Thanks to social media and the speed at which information can be passed on in this era, we are far more able to understand what is happening and take a stand for what is ethical and right.
Oh - You mean haven't heard the news? Your tampons - those things you shove in your vagina for one week out of each month for DECADES of your life - They're saturated with pesticides, antibiotics and bleaching agents, and our vagina is the most absorbent place in our bodies capable of sopping up that toxic chemical mess.
Maybe you're reading this for the first time and you really have no idea what I'm talking about. My sisters, grab yourself a warm cup of tea and allow me to enlighten you.
Your monthly dose of antibiotics
I have spoken quite often of glyphosate; an active ingredient in the herbicide Round-Up, which is sprayed in absolutely alarming amounts on conventional crops these days (To the tune of roughly 85 million pounds annually in the USA alone). Glyphosate is not only a Class 2A Carcinogen, but it's also a patented antibiotic. This brings me to the topic of your microbiome.
The word microbiome, in a sense, means "little city," and you can think of your microbiome like a little city of teensy microorganisms. A diverse array of bacteria, viruses and yeast - all of which tend to live, for the most part, in harmony. This might surprise you, but we actually have about 10X as many bacteria cells as we do human cells, and they make up an enormous essential part of our immune system. In other words, we WANT a diverse and thriving "little city."
It seems that the buzzword of the day lately is microbiome. And when you hear that word, you likely think about the microbiome in your digestive system; But the truth is, we have many different microbiomes. Yes - We have a microbiome on our face, we have one in our eyes, we have one in our mouths, one on our hands; and yes, ladies - We've even got one in our vaginas.
This brings me to the topic of antibiotics.
You've probably heard at least one person tell you about how they took antibiotics at one point so they made sure to eat yogurt or take a probiotic afterward. And while they ARE on the right track in thinking that we need to ensure we support our gut by introducing bacteria ESPECIALLY after taking an antibiotic, it's a far more complex situation than that. You can't just take a PRObiotic and it will reverse all that was done by the ANTIbiotic.
But please know this: I am not against antibiotics. As a matter of fact, I know they have saved many lives and they are certainly a reason that many people are here today. They hold their own important space in our world. HOWEVER - I personally feel that they are not only MISused in many instances, but they are also OVERused. Bacteria and viruses evolve much faster than humans - And this means that each time we douse them in something meant to kill them, they have an opportunity to adapt and get stronger. This is one of the contributing factors to the rising rates of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in our world today.
We need to use caution, and save antibiotics for the times when they are absolutely essential. We must do this to protect our little city so that it can protect us for many years to come.
You see, antibiotics don't discriminate. They wipe out ALL of the organisms. So imagine what putting an antibiotic-coated cotton stick up your vagina for roughly 11,000 days of your life can do.
This poses another question: How do we live with things like E.Coli, Epstein-Barr virus, and Herpes virus flowing through our bodies our whole lives, yet we still feel good? Why do these viruses not kill us?
Because we also have beneficial bacteria that help to keep everything in harmony. This is why having MORE diversity in terms of the different strains and species in our little city is a GOOD thing. Much like an ACTUAL city, diversity helps us to thrive, and it prevents the "bad guys" from having opportunities to take over.
This is why dropping an antibiotic bomb on the delicate balance of our city (wiping out many of the GOOD guys, the BAD guys and everything in between) can often cause us to get sick again and again. Our body will do it's best to correct itself, but it's a far more complicated situation than that.
Toxic Shock Syndrome - Could this have anything to do with antibiotics?
I have to ponder whether the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome with tampon use has anything to do with glyphosate. No studies currently prove this, because frankly, glyphosate is only ONE of many chemicals in round-up. It is hard to release a scientifically proven study on the impact of round-up because it's not one chemical, but rather a chemical soup, if you will. We might be able to gain an understanding on the impact of ONE chemical in the human body, but understanding how a dozen chemicals react with each other in our bodies is a whole other complicated mess. With that being said, let me share what I DO know so that we can make our best educated guess:
I'll start by saying this: Cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in North America.
According to WebMD, "Toxic shock syndrome is a sudden, potentially fatal condition. It's caused by the release of poisonous substances from an overgrowth of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, which is found in many women's bodies. Toxic shock syndrome affects menstruating women, especially those who use super-absorbent tampons. The body responds with a sharp drop in blood pressure that deprives organs of oxygen and can lead to death."
Did you catch that part? It is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria.
So I have to wonder: What causes this particular type of bacteria to overgrow to the point that it kills it's host?
Staph bacteria is normally present in the vagina, but it doesn't tend to cause any harm. What we DO know is that it needs the right environment to grow, and that it happens most often when tampons are left in too long. A tampon saturated in blood is the perfect petri dish for bacteria growth, and if said tampon is also soaked in antibiotics and other chemicals that create an imbalance of the bacteria in the vagina, my thought is that we are creating the most perfect environment for staph to take over.
This isn't to say that organic cotton tampons will prevent TSS either, because frankly, we are being bombarded with these antibiotics. They are in our food, they're sprayed on the clothes we wear, they're fed to our livestock, and they're even in our air and drinking water. But in my opinion, this is still no reason to continue using products that we KNOW contain these chemicals.
And I'm only scratching the surface here. This thought also begs the question: Could this have anything to do with bacterial vaginosis, increased risk for sexually transmitted infections, fertility issues, UTIs, yeast infections (which are an overgrowth of a fungus called Candida), and so on. I'm certain there are other factors that can play a role in these issues, but because this is one that is part of our lives on a consistent basis, and these products are literally placed directly on or in this area of our body, I feel it is something that we definitely need to start considering.
The inner workings of our lady bits
The vagina is a highly acidic environment with a pH of about 3.8-4.5 which is due to the production of lactic acid by a beneficial bacteria called Lactobacillus. This acidity is a protective mechanism that is especially important in maintaining balance in this delicate place so that certain pathogens cannot overgrow. In other words, the acidity is produced by some of the key members of our vagina's "little city," and it also plays a role in protecting it.
This area also contains a high level of fatty tissue, which tends to be what chemicals and toxins are most easily absorbed by. This is why if someone has a high level of chemicals and additives in their diet or in their home that the liver cannot detoxify fast enough, the body will store them in fat cells. In other words, the more toxins, the more fat cells. The more toxins, the more difficulty one can have in losing weight. But I digress - The important thing to note here is that we are placing these chemical-saturated sticks in the most perfectly absorbent, fatty environment for them to be easily absorbed by the body.
While thus far I only dived into the topic of antibiotics in these products, there are a few other things to note here:
How our hormones get the short end of the cotton-covered stick.
Dioxins not only cause cancer, but they're also endocrine disruptors. This means that they can knock off the delicate balance of our hormones; The chemical messengers in our bodies that play a massive role in regulating our mood, energy, skin health, digestive function, sleep cycle, sex drive, fertility, and even our ability to maintain a healthy weight.
Let me break this all down for you: Our vagina contains lots of fat tissue which loves to absorb chemicals. We put pads and tampons that were produced with dangerous chemicals directly on or in these parts of our body, and then we watch as the rates of women's cancers, immune and hormonal issues skyrocket.
What can we do to make a change, if not for ourselves than for our sisters, nieces and daughters? How can we start turning this ship around so that we can protect the fertility and frankly the livelihood of the women in our generations to come?
I am a firm believer that the best thing we can do is vote with our dollar. Invest in the products that are supportive of our health and stop buying from the companies that are producing these unsafe products. As their profits drop, my hope is that they will have no choice but to start creating global positive change.
But it starts with us.
There are a number of amazing brands out there who are developing products worth switching to. These are alternatives we can use instead to help reduce our exposure to toxins, antibiotics and carcinogens.
Here are a few products that you may consider switching to:
My sisters, it's going to take a whole lot more than just you and me to create a global awareness around this issue, so please, please - Share this blog post with the women in your life. Share it so that we can help to raise the consciousness of an issue that can create massive health problems in the world of the women we love.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comments! Also, if you use any of the mentioned products above, let me know your experience! I am hopeful that other women will come to this post and your comments may help them in deciding what will work best for them.
In health (and sisterhood),