How Public Swimming Pools Affect Your Gut

swimming pool

You, your teen, your child, your toddler, and your spouse are all equally excited. Which — let’s face it — hardly ever happens.

You’re going swimming at the neighborhood pool today! 

Sunscreen, bug spray, towels, and water floaties are all packed up. Are you missing anything?

Some prebiotics and spore probiotics should have definitely been on that list. 

You may or may not know this, but public pools are quite dirty and can terrorize your body — especially your microbiome. 

Potential Issues with Public Swimming Pools

Other than slipping and drowning, there are some serious issues that you probably aren’t aware of.

The three main problems with public swimming areas are:

  1. Chlorine
  2. Germs (Bacteria, viruses, protozoa, fungi, etc.)
  3. Other swimmers

Whaaat? Chlorine is bad for us? 

Let’s change the perspective a little bit, you know that stuff you use to get stains out of your white laundry? Chlorine Bleach? Yeah, that’s why. 


Chlorine: Friend or Secret Enemy

friends in pool

Before swearing off swimming pools forever, hear us out. 

Pros of Chlorine:

  • Kills most bacteria, fungi and other things swimming in the water alongside you
  • Prevents stagnant water from allowing bacteria and fungi to grow in the first place

So isn’t that what we want? How can something so seemingly good be bad?

Just like everything else, a pros list will come along with a cons list.

Here are some of the reasons why chlorine may not be the best choice for keeping your pool clean:

  • Destroys healthy bacteria 
  • Has been linked to causing dementia
  • Skin, eye, and ear irritant
  • Causes negative effects on your respiratory system
  • Erodes tooth enamel

Let’s look at these topics a little more in depth. 

How Chlorine Affects Your Microbiome

When products are used for killing bacteria, it kills all bacteria without discrimination. 

How many accidental mouthfuls of water have you swallowed while swimming and playing? Just like drinking water or tea, it has an effect on your gut microbiome. 

While you probably won’t swallow enough to make a huge difference, those with compromised immune systems or already out of whack microflora balance, that gulp can make an impact. 

**Side note: The water coursing through the veins, er, plumbing of your house also have chlorine in them to keep nasty things from entering your water.

So you really are ingesting more chlorine on a daily basis than you realize.

Using filters on the water you’ll be drinking can limit your exposure and make for healthier microbiomes.**

Ingestion isn’t the only way that chlorine water will affect your microbiome.

Remember that your skin is your largest organ. Since it’s porous it allows for chlorine and other substances to be absorbed into your body.

This is a huge part of why chlorine can affect your body so much and so negatively. 

Since chlorine has such strong effects on your microbiome, it also messes with your immune system creating an easier environment for pathogens to wreak havoc on your body. 

Chlorine and Dementia

A study was done on hair samples from dementia patients and healthy subjects of the same age to see if there was a correlation between trace elements and dementia.

It was found that chlorine (along with phosphorous, calcium, and sulfur) levels were significantly higher levels in the patients with dementia than the healthy controls. 

While it isn’t quite known exactly how chlorine affects dementia development, it is a strong link in the mysteriousness of the disease. 

Chlorine Irritation

Skin Irritation

Anyone with eczema or a history of ear problems can vouch that pool swimming can have a tendency to ramp up those issues. 

Chlorine is, again, the culprit. Getting out of the pool with ear pain, itchy/patchy skin, or red eyes isn’t ever fun.

But we do it anyway because it doesn’t seem like a big deal. 

Disinfection byproducts (DBPs) are the main cause of all of these problems.

These are toxic substances that result from chlorine use. They are what seem to cause mainly eye and skin problems associated with swimming. 

DBPs are also being studied for potential carcinogenic properties

Chlorine and Respiratory Problems

While swimming is a great exercise for your stamina, chlorine is undermining your hard work. 

DBPs have a huge part in this as well.

Chlorine has been found to cause asthma in swimmers and other lung related issues because it induces oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress then causes inflammation in the lining of the lungs resulting in asthma. 

Not so fun fact about chlorine: chlorine is used in its gas form as a chemical weapon to attack the respiratory system of the targets. 

A study was done to see all of the effects chlorine gases can have on your lungs and the systems that work alongside them and people who were accidentally exposed to chlorine gas suffered from:

  • Tachycardia
  • Chest discomfort
  • Cough
  • Vomiting
  • Tachypnoea
  • Acute dyspnoea

Chlorine is definitely not a friend to your lungs. 

Germs and Other Swimmers

germs in swimming pool

We’ve all seen the lady with her baby in the water and the baby is obviously making a poop face.

She just giggles and brushes it off as cute, but actually, that kid is releasing TONS of bacteria into the water. 

Not so cute anymore…

Blood, skin, and saliva are other ways for bacteria to enter the pool like feces. 

Fecal to oral spread is the way that most people get sick while swimming in public places. 

The main bacteria that cause problems this way are:

  • Salmonella
  • Shigella
  • Campylobacter
  • E. coli

The main viruses that are transmitted through public swimming areas are:

  • Adenovirus
  • Norovirus
  • Hepatitis A & E
  • Rotavirus
  • Astrovirus

The most common protozoa (parasites) to be contracted through public swimming are:

  • Cryptosporidium 
  • Giardia
  • Microsporidia
  • Enterocytozoon

All of these things will affect your digestive tract.

Some are stronger than others and some are chlorine resistant, so even in well-maintained pools you can still contract them. 

If you come home and are experiencing diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting, you probably picked something up at the pool.

Most of us just figure we are a little dehydrated from the sun and our bodies are tired, but that’s more than likely not the case.

But don’t fret! We have some tips to avoid getting and spreading bacteria this summer.

Keep Your Germs to Yourself and Avoid Germs From Others

Following the guidelines set by the CDC are a great way to help the spread of germs this summer.

Some suggestions they offer include:

  • Don’t swim or allow children to swim if you/they have diarrhea
  • Keep up with the latest test updates at your local swimming area to make sure they are properly upkeeping the pool
  • Bring your own test kit to check chlorine and pH levels
  • Shower before and after entering the pool 
  • Make sure you and your kid’s behinds are squeaky clean
  • Avoid getting water in your mouth
  • Don’t pee in the water (same for your kids)
  • Change diapers in the bathroom and wash your hands before and after changing

Along with these rules, you should definitely consider taking prebiotics and spore probiotics daily to help your gut and immune health. 

Spore probiotics will help to diversify your gut microflora allowing your body to have extra defenses in case anything slips through the defense wall. 

Atrantil and other prebiotics help your gut to remain nourished and strong so if invaders try to attack, they have a more difficult time of affecting you or breaking down your defenses. 

So before you grab your beach towel this summer, 

  • Wash up
  • Grab some water
  • Take your Atrantil

And make sure you have some healthy snacks that support good digestive health so you can be worry-free and enjoy your vacations!