This common toothpaste ingredient could be wreaking havoc on your gut

Even if you've never heard of it, you've almost certainly come across triclosan. A highly effective antibacterial and antifungal ingredient, triclosan is found in all kinds of toothpastes, hand sanitizers, deodorants, mouthwashes, detergents, cleaning supplies—if you use household products, you're interacting with triclosan every day. So it's worrying that a new study, published in Science Translation Medicine on Wednesday, suggests that triclosan exposure could increase rates of colitis and colon cancer.

In the new study, led by a group of food scientists at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the research team fed different groups of laboratory mice—some healthy, some engineered or induced with some disease of some sort—water spiked with triclosan for three weeks, to emulate the levels found in people who had used triclosan-containing toothpaste for two weeks. All of those mice experienced exacerbated gut problems of some sort. Inflammation in the colon sprung up, leading to symptoms like rectal bleeding, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and even reduced lifespan.

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Unusual uses for old toothbrushes

Clean the soles of shoes

We know shoes are meant to get dirty, but sometimes enough is enough. Use a toothbrush to reach the crevices on the bottom of your shoes and get rid of all the dirt! 

Unclump mascara

The shelf life of mascara is questionable, but don't let mascara clumps stop you from your makeup routine. Simply brush a toothbrush over a wand to get rid of those clumps. 

Clean grime spots around sinks, tubs

Dip into a tile cleaner and get scrubbing! 

Clean bike chains

Just dip into some soap and water. 

Scrub fish tanks

Clean a glass tank with a toothbrush, without getting dirty!  

Clean crayon marks off walls

Simply spray with some shaving cream, scrub and it's gone! 

Clean your fingernails

With just some soap and water, your nails will be as good as new. 

Dye your roots 

If you're attempting an at-home dye job, apply some dye to the toothbrush and brush your roots. The bristles will distribute the color evenly without missing a spot! 

Clean a garlic or cheese grater

Dip toothbrush in dish soap mixed with water and scrub! 

Clean old coins

If you're a coin collector, give the coins a little scrub with soap and water. It'll look as good as new! 

Clean keyboards 

Sometimes, things don't work in your favor if you're a multitasker. For those who eat at their computers, get rid of those crumbs with a toothbrush. 

Clean out hairbrushes

Toothbrushes are small enough to detangle hair-filled hairbrushes. 

Apply dry shampoo

As always, dry shampoo saves the day. Spray some on the bristles and brush on your roots! You'll look like you never skipped a wash. 

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It all comes down to what happens to your gut microbiome. It seems that triclosan devastated the diversity of bacteria found in the gut microbiome of those mice, and in particular killed off populations of Bifidobacterium, a "good" bacteria. The chemical transformed the intestinal flora into something antagonistic to the intestinal tissue, eliciting an inflammatory response from the body, as well as encouraging more aggressive tumor development in mice who were already battling colon cancer. This was only underscored by the fact that mice bred without gut bacteria did not experience inflammation even after exposure to triclosan.

Still, while distortions in the gut microbiome led to inflammation, it wasn't the only key factor. The researchers also noticed that other groups of mice lacking protein called Toll-like receptor 4, important in the inflammatory response of the body, were also immune to the deleterious effects of triclosan. Without the inflammation, triclosan exposure didn't do much to displease the gut.

Triclosan is used in thousands of different consumer products. Although the FDA banned triclosan in hand soaps and body washes in 2016, citing safety concerns and skepticism that triclosan worked any better than regular soap and water, it's still very widely used in other products. Naturally, it finds its way into the human body—especially through everyday toothpaste use—with the research team pointing out that a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found traces of TCA in 75 percent of urine samples in American individuals. It's among the top 10 biggest pollutants of U.S rivers.

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Foods dentists avoid

Popcorn

Put down that bowl of microwave popcorn, friends. "Countless number of people come in with cracked teeth from eating half-popped popcorn kernels, not to mention the sneaky husk," says Jonathan Neman, DDS, a dentist in New York City "Popcorn husk is notorious for finding its way in between teeth and causing gum pain, too." We're depressed by this news since popcorn is one of the healthiest snacks out there!

Dried fruit

As tasty as those dried pineapples are and no matter how much you love that fiber boost from prunes, dried fruit is a disaster for teeth. "Not only are the sugars concentrated, but they are very sticky and sit into the grooves of your molars causing cavities," explains Dr. Neman. Check out these other easy ways to sneak fiber into your diet.

Sweet coffee drinks 

Get ready to try our list of calorie-free coffee hacks, because those venti cups with extra pumps of the sweet stuff are your worst dental nightmare. "Constant exposure to the milk and sugar over the course of an hour or more make it difficult for the saliva to combat against the sugars and acids produced by the bacteria in our mouths," Dr. Neman says. "Saliva is the great protector of our teeth, and with the constant sugar attacks from taking sips of sugary drinks, over time the salivary glands fail to keep up." Yikes!

Seeds

Forget the leftover pumpkin seeds you have if you like your teeth in good shape, says Dr. Neman. "Many seeds require cracking them open with our front teeth, easily causing chipping of the edges of our front teeth."

Hot lemon water

If you're heard hot lemon water makes a great coffee replacement for your morning drink, think twice before imbibing because dentists say it's bad news for your enamel. "Tooth wear is caused by the acidity of the lemon which erodes the enamel of the teeth," Raha Sepehrara, DDS, explained to Metro UK. "Repetitive and frequent exposure to acidic drinks or foods can dissolve the enamel of the teeth, exposing the inner layer of the teeth called dentine, which is yellower than enamel and also very sensitive."

Ice

You need to stop chewing ice ASAP, because it's destructive, says Jon Marashi, DDS. "Ice is simply too hard for tooth enamel and causes stress fractures in the teeth. It can even break a piece of your tooth."

Energy Drinks 

"Energy drinks are super acidic, and they have low pH and high sugar content. I've seen a rise in amounts of decay among college students who consume this in excess to stay up all night, whether studying or partying," shares Dr. Marashi. "It coats all the teeth and therefore affects all of them equally. You'll end up with a mouth full of cavities!" Try these essential oils for energy instead if you're hitting a late afternoon slump.

Chocolate-covered raisins

They may be everyone's favorite movie snack, but they're far from healthy. "Raisinets are the devil!" says Dr. Marashi. "It's surprising, but chocolate alone is less harmful than raisins. The sugar content is higher and the sticky aspect of raisins get stuck in the groves of your teeth. The chocolate is just kerosene for the fire!" Find out all the healthy candy swaps you should make today.

Sports drinks

"Athletic drinks were created to re-hydrate athletes and replenish lost nutrients and electrolytes," says Krysta Manning, DMD, MBA, and owner of Solstice Dental & Aesthetics in Louisville, Kentucky. "However, these health benefits often come with a heavy dose of sugars. Liquid sugars are notorious for causing cavities in hard to reach places and are even more detrimental when introduced into a dry oral environment." Unless you're a high-performance athlete, re-hydrate with plain old water.

PB & J

"Each of the two ingredients is often laced with added sugar," tells Dr. Manning. "Add in the sticky texture and you've got a perfect recipe for cavities. If you're going to enjoy this treat, I recommend looking for peanut butters and jellies with no added sugar and drinking lots of water. If possible, brush or chew a xylitol gum afterward to make sure all of the sticky sugar is removed from your teeth."

Canned fruit 

If canned fruit sounds healthy because it has "fruit" in the name, think again. "While fruit is typically considered a healthy option, fruit in a can is often surprisingly unhealthy. If it's packaged in syrup and coated in sugar, these options become just one step removed from candy," says Dr. Manning.

Seltzer 

Your favorite no-calorie drink isn't as healthy as it claims to be. Gasp. This studyfound that exposure to carbonated waters, like seltzer, can be as damaging for teeth enamel as orange juice.

Gummy bears

It's not just gummy bears, but all gummy-style candies should be avoided like the plague because they ruin teeth says Lawrence Fung, DDS, a cosmetic dentist at Silicon Beach Dental and spokesperson for Hello "Naturally Friendly" Oral Care. "They are terrible for your teeth since they stick to all areas of the tooth and the longer the contact the sweets have with the teeth, the more acid gets produced by cavity-causing bacteria." Check out all the other top causes of tooth decay.

BBQ Meats 

Sorry to ruin your next backyard BBQ party, but those sticky red sauces that turn everything delicious are cavities waiting to happen. "Barbecued meats, like spare ribs, are some of the worst foods for teeth because of the caramelized sugars used in the sauce," explains Frederick Baker, DDS. "You have the potential to crack your teeth on parts of the meat that may have over-caramelized, and the extra sugar is never good." While you're at it, avoid these other summer favorites that can stain your teeth.

Granola Bars

Sorry, snack lovers, granola bars maybe be full of fiber and minerals, but they're awful for oral hygiene and not as healthy as you'd think. "They have a good amount of sugar which is not good for teeth," says Dr. Baker. "Some brands also coat their granola bars with additional sugars for crunch, so it's two-fold, where you have the potential to break teeth as well as break down enamels with sugars."

Next, find out the 50 foods nutritionists never eat—so you shouldn't either.

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When it comes to triclosan's effects on human health, "we know very little for certain," says Paul Terry, an epidemiologist at the University of Tennessee who was not involved with the study. "It appears to prevent gingivitis when present in toothpaste, although there are other ways to prevent gingivitis. Triclosan exposure may have health consequences, but these are not clear." And while it's billed as an antibacterial that's supposed to keep products safe from germs, triclosan is "certainly not a necessary ingredient in any consumer product." Its use is already being phased out in many cases.

Terry thinks the findings make sense, and raise serious concerns, but he's keen on seeing confirmation, especially as it pertains to human health. A study on rodents is hardly enough to proclaim continued triclosan exposure will destroy our guts.

Patrick McNamara, an environmental engineer at Marquette University who wasn't involved in the study, finds triclosan worrisome not just as a direct hazard to human health, but also as a contributor to antibiotic resistance in many pathogens. "There's certainly more concern about triclosan than there is benefit," he says. "It has no added benefit in soap for washing hands. I personally avoid products that contain it, especially for my young children. The red flags around it are numerous and the benefits limited. Several hospitals have eliminated using it."

At this point, there seem to be very few defenders of continued triclosan use in products, while the backlash is only mounting higher and higher.

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