Is Using Hand Sanitizers A Good Or A Bad Thing?

Posted: November 2, 2016
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Hand sanitizers. These are widely used, and believed to kill harmful bacteria. So they must be good, right? Here’s a look at how we’re wrong.

What are microbes and can we live without them? Is our modern life-style disturbing them?

Without microbes, we couldn’t eat or breathe. Though, without us, they’d probably be just fine. Microbes are everywhere. Microbes are in the air we breathe, the ground we walk on, the food we eat—they’re even inside us! Most microbes live in our small intestine and also in our colon and help us digest most of our food. They are friendly bacteria, which help us fight bad bacteria. Most of them are helpful or at least harmless.

Good bacteria help to keep bad bacteria from multiplying and causing illness in several ways. They use up nutrients so that bad bacteria don’t have access to them. Good bacteria also play a powerful role in supporting the immune system. They communicate with us constantly. 70% of our immune system resides in our gut. So, maintaining a healthy gut flora and microbial diversity is important aspect of being healthy.

Probiotic and prebiotic bacteria can help us maintain a healthy gut. Traditional foods in most cultures have fermented and cultured food that is probiotic and helps in cultivating microbes. Indian culture has many varieties of fermented foods.

Are we doing something unintentionally to disturb these microbes that are living in our gut?

I was unintentionally doing exactly that! Without questioning it, I used hand sanitizers and anti bacterial soaps until I realized they were harming my family and me.

Anti-bacterial soaps are banned in US now. Research proves that they might affect human hormones or change natural resistance to bacteria and prompt cancer cells to grow. According to Tom Malterre, MS, CN, “By using hand sanitizers, lotions etc. you can make somebody 400% more sensitive to foods. Chemicals shift immune cell functions.”

Most of the anti-bacterial soaps and hand sanitizers contain Triclosan. Studies state that potential dangers of triclosan can be –

  • Abnormalities with the endocrine system, particularly with thyroid hormone signaling
  • Weakening of the immune system
  • Birth defects
  • Uncontrolled cell growth
  • Unhealthy weight loss

In recent years, I had started using hand-sanitizers a lot. I would pack it with my son’s lunch box and instruct him to use it before eating. Now, as I am more aware and informed, and our family doesn’t use sanitizers anymore. We use normal, preferably hand-made scent free soap and water to wash our hands before meals.

I surveyed a few friends, asking them whether they use antibacterial soaps and hand-sanitizers or not. I got mixed responses.

A friend admitted, “I only use antibacterial soaps and sanitizers even though I have heard we need certain types of bacteria. I think now I have just got used to it.” Another parent was aware about the disadvantages and said, “Our family only washes our hands with soap and water before eating, we never use any anti-bacterial soaps.”

Lately, hand sanitizers are available in different flavors and shapes. My son received a Superman shaped hand sanitizer container as a return gift at a birthday party, and I need to now discourage him from using it.

I strongly believe that using sanitizers plays a psychological role in our society. We are now addicted without knowing if it is beneficial for us or not. It is high time that we educate ourselves before using any product and not trust blindly. It will not just help us, but our children too, in the future, to make wise choices.

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Meenu believes in enjoying little things in life. Very social but at the same time

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