By: Alonso Chavarriaga
Hand sanitizers are showing up more now than ever before. Restaurants, retail stores, supermarkets, offices, your workplace, your friends’ homes and even your own home are almost guaranteed to have hand sanitizer close by. All of this exposure to germ killers can be having the opposite effect, however, according to renowned physician and host of the popular radio station To Your Good Health Radio Dr. David Friedman.
The Damaging Effects of Hand Sanitizers
One of Dr. Friedman’s biggest concerns is that most hand sanitizers are alcohol-based. The public perception is that alcohol is an almost magical substance that can destroy bad germs and protect your immunity. In reality, continuously using alcohol strips away the vital skin oils and eventually destroys the protective skin cells that naturally keep us safe from infections. Using alcohol on the skin has been linked to contact dermatitis in children, and dries out the skin. People often use hand sanitizers often, and in some cases as frequently as every 5-10 minutes.
Dr. Friedman points out that there are two other ingredients in hand sanitizer to watch out for: triclosan and benzophenone-4. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) labels triclosan as a pesticide. Dubbed a “bacteria buster” by Dr. Friedman, triclosan is so effective at killing bacteria that it also destroys the delicate, natural balance of friendly intestinal flora – your good bacteria. A weakened gut flora leads to a weakened immune system, and exposing bacteria to such a strong countermeasure promotes the evolution of drug resistant germs, which in turn make you prone to future infections. Benzophenone-4, which is found in some “enhanced” hand sanitizers, is listed as a hazardous endocrine disruptor by the Environmental Working Group.
Building a Strong Immune System the Natural Way
Developing a healthy immune system needs to start at an early age. Dr. Friedman observes too many parents telling their young ones to avoid getting dirty or playing in the dirt, believing that dirt is a smorgasbord of dangerous germs. On the contrary, playing in dirt and getting dirty exposes kids to millions of bacteria, viruses and worms in the soil that are crucial for boosting the immune system.
According to Harvard researchers, early life microbe exposure significantly lowers the occurrence of asthma, allergies, and inflammatory bowel diseases later in life. For most people, the first healthy amount of beneficial bacteria comes at birth when you leave mouth first during delivery. As you are nursed and breastfed, you also gain the flora living around your mother’s areola and breast, providing an important line of defense against early infections.
Everyone is worried about touching or inhaling someone’s germs as they sneeze or cough, but your mouth has bacteria-killing saliva and your nose contains thousands of tiny hairs that serve as a protective barrier. The most vulnerable spot in these situations are actually your eyes. There are tiny pores that act as vacuums into our body, and shutting your eyes when someone sneezes or coughs will block the main point of entry for germs.
“If you live a healthy life, eat right, and keep your stress levels in check, you make a lousy host for these germs to grow in. That’s the key, not hand sanitizer,” says Dr. Friedman. Hand sanitizers say they kill 99 percent of viruses and germs, but that’s not entirely true. Soap and water are still considered to be the best way to protect yourself from dangerous germs. Where hand sanitizer cannot kill major viruses like salmonella, E. coli, human parvovirus, H1N1, botulism, anthrax, and hepatitis, an old-fashioned hand wash in the sink does.