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This common toothpaste ingredient wreaks inflammatory havoc on your gut health, according to new research


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Photo: Getty Images/bernardbodo

Though you don’t eat toothpaste as a straight-up snack (even if some new flavors do sound weirdly enticing), the cleaner for your pearly whites can seep into your gums and then into your bloodstream, so its ingredients are important to note for your body’s health. And, despite the FDA banning triclosan—a controversial anti-microbial found in more than 2,000 consumer products—from soaps a couple years ago, it’s still found in many of the popular toothpastes on store shelves. According to new research, that might be bad news for your gut health.

While a 2017 study found that triclosan can build up and linger on your toothbrush bristles for weeks, making it simple for the ingredient to reach your organs, some big brands didn’t regard as a health risk. In fact, Colgate told Time it still uses triclosan in products to “fight harmful plaque germs that can cause gingivitis.” But given new findings published in the journal Science Translational Medicine that suggest the compound could be negatively affecting your gut and putting your health at risk, hopefully products are on the cusp of change.

Study author Haixia Yang, PhD, says triclosan might activate genes that “could cause adverse effects on colonic inflammation and colon cancer.

For one trial in in the study, mice were fed a diet that contained low doses of triclosan for three weeks, which ended up depleting their bodies of Bifidobacterium, a probiotic bacteria that offers important anti-inflammatory effects. Furthermore, in groups of mice predisposed to either inflammatory bowel disease or colon cancer, the short-term low doses of triclosan exacerbated symptoms and tumor sizes. So while more data is needed in order to draw confident conclusions, study author Haixia Yang, PhD, says triclosan might activate genes that “could cause adverse effects on colonic inflammation and colon cancer,” The Los Angeles Times reports.

So, consider these gut-health-compromising findings all the more reason to closely read product labels before buying and brushing in order to ditch the compound for good. Maybe even opt probiotic toothpaste to make your gut and grin equally happy.

Is cooking for your DNA the best way to reduce inflammation and improve gut health? Or, find out three ways fiber could be the secret to maintaining great gut health.

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