Deodorants and antiperspirants may be good for our social life, but they change the makeup of our underarm microbial community. A study finds they eradicate odor-causing bacteria, which makes room for the growth of other bacterial strains.
In recent years, the microbiome within the gut is a hot topic for research, as scientists have found that these microbes have far-reaching effects on many aspects of health. But what about the bacteria under your arm? Do they offer some benefit to wellness? Moreover, will altering this community have any adverse effects?
At this point, the answers to these questions aren’t known. Yet, the coauthor of the study seems to hint that the disturbance of the underarm microbiome isn’t desirable. “When you have all these microbes on your skin, most of them are potentially beneficial, or at least benign,” said Julie Horvath, an evolutionary geneticist at the North Carolina Central University told Quartz. She explains that the bacteria use up body oils and sweat, which makes it harder for pathogenic strains to survive.
Underarm Products Reverse Proportions of Bacterial Strains
In the research published in PeerJ, the underarm bacterial community of people who use deodorants and antiperspirants was compared with that of people who don’t use the products. After a baseline assessment, a group of seventeen participants was asked to abstain from wearing underarm products on the second through sixth day of the experiment. On the seventh and eighth day, they were required to wear an antiperspirant. The scientists found the products caused different strains of bacteria to dominate.
The microbiome of those who didn’t use underarm products contained 62 percent Corynebacterium, which is the strain that causes most body odor, and 21 percent Staphylococcaceae. It also had less than 10 percent of unidentifiable bacterial strains.
Contrastingly, the proportions of the two main types of bacteria was reversed in the groups who used the products, with the population of Corynebacterium much lower and the population of Staphylococcaceae much higher. In addition, antiperspirant users had 20 percent unidentifiable bacteria, while deodorant user had 5 percent.
When all of the participants were required to use antiperspirants, most of the bacterial strains died. The unidentifiable strains grew back the fastest in those who typically used the products.
Health Risks Associated with Underarm Products
Perhaps further studies may reveal the health effects of the changes in the underarm microbiome. However, earlier research suggests deodorants and antiperspirants carry a risk unconnected to bacterial disruption: the products contain aluminum and paraben, which are linked to breast cancer. Another possible health risk of underarm products is Alzheimer’s, as patients with this disease have elevated levels of aluminum in their brain.
Furthermore, the action of blocking the excretion of perspiration from sweat glands prevents one of the body’s means of getting rid of toxins. When toxins aren’t eliminated, they remain inside the body and can cause damage.
The Natural Approach to Odor Control
Never use any kind of antiperspirant. In choosing a natural deodorant, read the product label carefully before purchasing because some contain aluminum and paraben. According to noted natural health practitioner Dr. Joseph Mercola, many crystal deodorants claim to be aluminum free, but some brands have an ingredient called alum, potassium alum or potassium aluminum sulfate. Although products with this compound aren’t as harmful as most deodorants on the market, he advocates avoiding them.
Aside from commercially available natural deodorants, you have other options. Dr. Oz recommends using either apple cider vinegar or regular vinegar, as odor-causing bacteria are unable to thrive in an acidic environment. Witch hazel, tea tree oil and lemon juice act in the same way, so they may also be used in lieu of a deodorant. Some essential oils, such as lavender or a diluted preparation of sage, have antibacterial properties as well.
Since chlorophyll is a natural deodorizer, eating foods that are rich in the botanical or taking supplements containing it can help. Good sources include green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, along with barley grass or wheat grass supplements.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.