You're Probably Not Washing Your Reusable Water Bottle Enough

iStock.com/Paulo Resende
iStock.com/Paulo Resende

Carrying a reusable water bottle is an economical and eco-friendly choice. By not lugging around one-time-use plastic bottles, you're reducing waste headed to landfills and saving money on water that flows freely from your tap. (Unless, of course, you own a home and have to pay the water bill.) Whether they're made of glass, have a filter, or come insulated, the bottles carry clear advantages over crates of packaged water.

As beneficial as these bottles are, they tend to lull consumers into a sense of false security. Since only water goes in them, there's a pervasive feeling that they don't need to be washed often. Some users may not even wash them at all. As Reader's Digest contributor Lisa Marie Conklin points out, that's not a good idea.

Conklin spoke with microbiologist Miryam Z. Wahrman, Ph.D., a professor of biology at William Paterson University, to get some insight on why washing reusable bottles should be a habit. For one thing, Wahrman notes, people sipping from the nozzle frequently have traces of food in their mouth that can migrate to the bottle and the remaining water inside. Any germs in or around your mouth can also find their way into the supply. The next time you drink—an hour or a day later—you're consuming that potentially unfriendly bacteria.

Those microbes can begin to proliferate in stagnant water, especially if it's left inside a hot car, in front of a sun-exposed window, or other places where a warm environment can contribute to their growth. Bottles can also pick up all the same germs transmitted by your hands during a typical day.

To avoid contamination, it's best to wash your bottle daily with soap and water. Michigan State University advises filling the bottle with water and dish soap and letting it soak for several minutes. It's also a good idea to empty the bottle if you're not going to be using it for extended periods.

[h/t Reader's Digest]

Alcohol-Producing Gut Bacteria May Harm Livers—Even if You Don't Drink

itakdalee/iStock via Getty Images
itakdalee/iStock via Getty Images

Teetotalers might think their liver is safe from the damaging effects of alcohol consumption, but new research is hinting that even non-drinkers and light drinkers might have cause for concern. It turns out a type of gut bacteria is capable of producing alcohol—and enough of it to potentially cause some pretty serious health consequences, including liver disease.

A study led by Jing Yuan at the Capital Institute of Pediatrics in Beijing, China and published in the journal Cell Metabolism offers details. After evaluating a patient with auto-brewery syndrome (ABS), a rare condition brought on by consumption and fermentation of sugary foods that leaves a person with high blood alcohol levels, researchers made an intriguing discovery. Rather than finding fermenting yeast that may have led to the condition, the patient’s stool contained Klebsiella pneumonia, a common gut bacteria capable of producing alcohol. In this subject, K. pneumonia was producing significantly more alcohol than in healthy patients.

The patient also had nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), characterized by fatty deposits in the liver. While many cases of NAFLD are relatively benign, too much fat can become toxic. Examining 43 other subjects with NAFLD, scientists found that that K. pneumonia was both present and potent, pumping out more alcohol than normal in 60 percent of participants with NAFLD. In the control group, a surplus was found in only 6.25 percent.

To further observe a correlation, scientists fed the bacteria to healthy, germ-free mice, who began to see an increase in fat in their livers after only one month. While not conclusive proof that the bacteria prompts NAFLD, it will likely trigger additional research in humans.

It’s not yet known how K. pneumonia acts in concert with the bacterial profile of the gut or what might make someone carrying stronger strains of the bacteria. Luckily, K. pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics. That’s good news for people who might never touch a drink and still find themselves with a damaged liver.

[h/t Live Science]

Visit Any National Park for Free on September 28—or Volunteer to Help Maintain Them

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park
Nick Hanauer/iStock via Getty Images

By the end of September—which always seems especially busy, even if you’re not a student anymore—you might be ready for a small break from the hustle and bustle. On Saturday, September 28, you can bask in the tranquility of any national park for free, as part of National Public Lands Day.

According to the National Park Service, the holiday has been held on the fourth Saturday of every September since 1994, and it’s also the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort. It’s up to you whether you’d like to partake in the service side or simply go for a stroll, but there is an added incentive to volunteer: You’ll get a one-day park pass that you can use for free park entry on a different day. Opportunities for volunteering include trail restoration, invasive plant removal, park cleanups, and more; you can see the details and filter by park, state, and/or type of event here.

If you’re not sure how you should celebrate National Public Lands Day, the National Park Service has created a handy flowchart to help you choose the best course of action for you—which might be as simple as sharing your favorite outdoor activity on social media with the hashtag #NPLD.

National public lands day celebration flowchart
National Park Service

There are more than 400 areas run by the National Park Service across the U.S., and many of them aren’t parks in the traditional sense of the word; the Statue of Liberty, Alcatraz Island, and countless other monuments and historical sites are also run by the NPS. Wondering if there might be one closer than you thought? Explore parks in your area on this interactive map.

For those of you who can’t take advantage of the free admission on September 28, the National Park Service will also waive all entrance fees for Veteran’s Day on November 11.

And, if you’re wishing a free-admission day existed for museums, you’re in luck—more than 1500 museums will be free to visit on Museum Day, which happens to be this Saturday.

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