Before the COVID 19 pandemic hit, our rare(ish) use of hand sanitizers already wreaked havoc on our immune system, but can you imagine what it is doing to us now? Don’t get me wrong, I’m here for all the sanitizer if it keeps us generally safe as a population. But I cannot deny the fact that both alcohol and non-alcohol based sanitizers come with their negative side effects.
Non-alcohol based sanitizers often contain a chemical component called triclosan. Triclosan is an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent often used some of our common cleaning and beauty products, and it has been heavily linked to hormone disruption in our bodies, as well as a weakened immune system. Triclosan also contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics, which may lower our resistance to diseases by killing good bacteria. Not to mention that scented sanitizers often carry parabens and phalates as part of their extensive ingredient list which can disrupt the thyroid, cause a whole host of skin issues, and are overall something you would want to avoid.
While there is definitely a time and place for sanitizers in this pandemic-era, I highly recommend opting for the traditional soap and water wherever possible, and following some of the recommendations below:
Supporting Your Immune System:
- Probiotics: rebuild healthy bacteria in the gut through fermented foods such as tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi + kombucha and/or supplementation
- Get Good Quality Sleep: the kind where you feel well rested when you wake up. Some ways to get a good sleep might include journalling before bed to clear your mind, ensuring you can get 6-8 hours of sleep, leaving electronics out of the bedroom, using a sleep mask to block out any light, drinking a cup of chamomile tea before bed, and if you feel super fancy, maybe diffusing some lavender essential oil shortly before you call it a night
- Limit Added Sugars: realistically, sugar is hidden in everything we consume these days. Try your best to limit added sugars as they are highly inflammatory to almost every organ system in our bodies
- Stay Hydrated: good quality water does your body wonders. Have you ever been hangry, but like, the thirsty version? Yeah…Me too. Let’s try not to get there by drinking our water throughout the day to maintain adequate levels of hydration
- Manage Stress Levels: this one is a little tricky… but arguably one of the most important variables when it comes to building our immune system. Stress is one of the BIGGEST root causes of many of the common ailments we see today. Learning to cope or manage our stress in healthy ways is so important
- Vitamins: including (but not limited to) Vitamin C, and Vitamin B6, and Vitamin D – these are base level vitamins that will help to improve our immune function
- Antioxidant Support: through whole foods such as beans, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds
- Movement: Yoga, Walking, Dancing, Running, Swimming, Playing Sports….anything that you enjoy and gets you up and moving!
This is by no means an extensive or die-hard list of things you need to start implementing immediately. I would recommend choosing a couple and starting from there. Our immune systems are our number 1 defense against diseases and the use of hand sanitizer so often throughout the day will have negative side effects on our bodies’ ability to fight off illness naturally. By incorporating some of the above suggestions, we can find more of a balance between optimal health and safety during these unprecedented times.