Unfortunately, for about a week now and still counting, the municipal water for most of the state of Hessen has been deemed contaminated with E. coli [Hessenschau]. The cause is unknown, but there was an outbreak of pathogenic E. coli in 2011 [Eurosurveillance]. To combat this problem, the state is further contaminating the water with chlorine bleach.
Fortunately, this situation forced me to think about when and how much water we use carelessly or unnecessarily. It also inspired me to think of solutions for people who have similar water contamination problems, temporarily or chronically.
My advice for action after finding out that your water is contaminated with dangerous microbes:
- Don’t panic! The body has many lines of defense, including the skin, mucous-lined airways, stomach acid, pancreatic and bile secretions and inflammatory responses, against pathogenic bacteria, yeasts and viruses [Merck Manual]. Support your body with healthy thoughts and a sufficient amount of nutrients.
- Get clean drinking water. Germany has an abundance of natural springs, so bottled spring water is very cheap (literally cheaper than dirt), possibly more so than tap water, and all bottled water is highly regulated [EFBW]. If you have use for clean tap water, it needs to be freshly sanitized through boiling at a rolling boil for 1 to 3 minutes, depending on elevation/boiling point, to kill bacteria [CDC]. I’ve been using tap water boiled in an electric kettle to make tea, cook grains (for couscous – just add boiling water), blanche vegetables and (after cooling) water houseplants. Distilled water is also an option but may not be necessary for a microbial contamination. Caution: Drinking too much DW too fast can cause bodily distress and even death [How Stuff Works].
- Use coldest setting of tap water. Since tap water can only reach up to 60 deg C (for skin safety and material protection), and since microbes only start to be killed at 70 deg C, using hot tap water to ‘sanitize’ is not justified. Hot water can remove protective oils and denature structural and functional proteins in your skin, leaving you open to infection. Hot water also causes pores in the skin to open. Cold water is astringent, meaning it causes your pores to close. You can feel this as your skin tightening. This is good for preventing microbes and toxins from entering your body through your skin.
- Shower wisely. Take a short, cold shower if needed. Avoid getting water on cuts and body openings. Consider a sponge bath. I actually enjoy an oatmeal sponge bath and hair wash: 1) Fill sock with oats and knot it. 2) Soak it in warm sanitized water until the oats are softened. 3) Rub over skin. 4) Rinse hair with resulting oat-water (looks milky). 5) Dry/Rub off residue with a towel and apply moisturizer. This is very soothing for itchy skin.
- Use probiotics. Your gut lining needs microbes, including non-pathogenic E. coli, to properly function. Antibiotics, synthetic or natural, destroy microbes and open up real estate, which should then be populated with beneficial microbes. Good sources of probiotics are easy to make yourself, such as fermented fruit juice (ex: hard cider), kombucha, unpasteurized vinegar (super easy), sauerkraut and kefir (sour, not spoiled, milk). You can also clean broken skin, fruits/vegetables and surfaces with strong vinegar.
- Go medieval on your food. Wash your food down with mead, wine or (real) beer. These are probiotic detoxifying digestive aids. Load raw or difficult-to-sanitize foods (fish, meats, especially chicken) with antibiotic digestive aids, like citrus zest and herbs [learn about medieval herbs on gardeningknowhow]. Traditional Medicine, both Western and Eastern, focuses a lot more on increasing bile secretions and moving fluids through the body than Modern Medicine. Stretching and exercise are also needed to keep the lymphatic (infection-fighting) system working properly.