We are bombarded with information about the microbiome—the environment of viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and fungi that live around us, on us, and in us. People in Edgar Cayce’s day were also acutely aware of all the germs around them—and that many of those germs caused disease. Cayce lived through the devastating 1918 flu epidemic that killed 1 out of every 150 Americans, and many of the Edgar Cayce health readings described ways that people could prevent flu and other illness. Eating a healthy diet, taking time to relax and exercise, spending time outside, avoiding constipation, engaging in meditation and prayer—all are Cayce-recommended actions that modern health research suggests support the immune system to fight off infections. Numerous Cayce readings also emphasize the importance of keeping the body clean to stay healthy. Simple hygiene remains the number one way we can all protect ourselves and prevent the spread of disease.
Certainly deadly diseases are spread via sexual contact and via direct contact with infected blood, but most common diseases are transmitted in two primary ways: 1) If people don’t wash their hands after using the toilet, they can transmit germs to others, to food, and to objects through the fecal-oral route; and 2) Disease transmission through the air. When someone who is infectious coughs, sneezes, or even talks, germs can be aerosolized into dangerous airborne droplets that can be inhaled or can contaminate objects. An unsuspecting healthy person can then contact the infected person, the food, or the contaminated object and transfer the germs into their body by touching their nose or mouth.
There are many dangerous bacteria and viruses lurking in public places that cause the flu, food poisoning, pneumonia, colds, and even meningitis. Becoming a germophobe and blasting every surface with antibacterial chemicals sounds like a good idea—kill the germs!—but actually the use of these chemicals can increase the resistance of disease-causing germs while destroying helpful bacteria. In contrast, studies1 have shown that exposure to typical household germs may even strengthen the immune system. The key here is the phrase “typical household.” In public spaces like stores, the workplace, and certainly medical facilities, being a germophobe is a good idea. Obsessive hand hygiene for everyone (especially for those over 65 or with chronic disease) after being in public settings will decrease illnesses.
Hand sanitizers are a good way to improve hand hygiene. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer, scrubbed over all hand surfaces until it dries, does a great job of getting rid of most bacteria and viruses. The best way to eliminate germs, however, is by thorough hand-washing. Ninety-five percent of people in several surveys reported washing their hands after using the restroom. But do they really? A group at Michigan State University led by Dr. Carl Borchgrevink2 did an excellent observational study in 2015 to paint a more accurate picture of handwashing behavior. Twelve observers, trained to be unobtrusive and to disguise their observations, staked out four public restrooms at different times of the day or night in multiple seasons. They collected data about 3,749 public toilet users. As predicted they found that far fewer people in their population actually washed with soap and water. More than 10% of the subjects didn’t wash their hands at all. About 23% rinsed their hands but didn’t use soap. Only 67% washed their hands using soap and water after using the toilet. Interestingly the researchers found that 80% of women washed with soap and water, while only 50% of the men did.
Recommended handwashing technique involves wetting the hands with warm or cool water since hot water can break down the skin and open small fissures that germs can enter. Use a generous amount of mild soap, not antibacterial soap, and lather all the way up to the wrists. Scrub all hand surfaces for 15 to 20 seconds, the time it takes to sing two rounds of the Happy Birthday song. Rinse with running water and then dry the hands thoroughly. With little time and effort, we can safely get rid of disease-causing bacteria and viruses on our hands.
These should be kept as clean and as clarified as there should be for the physical; for, as has oft been said, bodily cleanliness makes for bodily godliness, and this should be comprised always in the lives and the activities of every individual.
-- Edgar Cayce reading 5648-4
Handwashing can become a practice of mindfulness in our daily lives and the best way to protect ourselves from illness.