We’ve all endured a pandemic that left many of us hyper-vigilant about cleanliness, and for good reason. Although the pandemic has now officially been dubbed an endemic, we still repeatedly reach for hand sanitizer like there’s no tomorrow.
Is there such a thing as too clean? Importantly, can it impact your immune system? We checked in with experts and found there were varying opinions.
Let’s dig into the research and see if we can find out if there are downfalls to being squeaky clean.
The Benefits of Hand Sanitizer
We turned to the Cleveland Clinic and read what allergist and immunologist James Fernandez, MD, Ph.D., had to say during the pandemic.
Dr. Fernandez said there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that temporarily stepping up your cleaning game is dangerous to your immune health.
“For adults, in this time frame, we’re talking about the hygiene measures that we’re taking, I don’t think there’s a lot of clinical risk to our immune health,” he noted.
To reduce the spread of infectious disease, the CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water after you’ve been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
If you need to wash your hands but aren’t near soap and water, opt for a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
Hand sanitizer has benefits when used properly, including zapping most types of bacteria (more on that later).
Hand Sanitizer Risks
We all know that habitual use of hand sanitizer dries out the skin, but that’s not all.
According to Healthline.com, hand sanitizer sometimes contains an ingredient called triclosan. According to the FDA, triclosan is intended to kill bacteria and has been used in products from toothpaste to body wash. The FDA also says some studies have indicated that high exposure to triclosan may disrupt natural hormone cycles and even impact fertility.
The FDA warns that because triclosan is so good at irradicating all bacteria, overuse can lead to a rise in antibiotic-resistance bacteria.
The Texas A & M Health newsletter suggests that being ‘too clean’ may harm our immune systems, especially our kids. Robert Alaniz, Ph.D., professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, explains it this way.
“When our immune systems are young, they learn what antigens should be ignored and what are truly harmful,” Dr. Alaniz says.
“If they don’t learn these lessons early on about what to ignore or what to attack, our more mature immune systems will respond aggressively to particles in the environment that are rather innocuous.”
Alaniz notes that children are extra sensitive to infections, but as their immune systems build, they will learn to deal with the antigen efficiently. Also, if children aren’t exposed to these pathogens until later, their mature immune systems can overreact, leading to a series of health problems.
He says being too clean is similar to overusing antibiotics that kill good bacteria and change the immune system.
This is a loaded topic; we don’t pretend to be the be-all-end-all experts. What we can do is suggest…
Finding A Clean Middle Ground
Hygiene is just one of the many factors that play into fostering a well-tuned immune system that can fight dangerous infections.
Click here and take a look at proven ways to care for your immune system, including sleep, diet, exercise, supplements, and more.
And while you’re in research mode, dig into Your Immune System and Your Gut where we get into all the specifics. For instance, a whopping 70 percent of the immune system resides in the gut, where diverse bacteria live. A diverse legion of healthy microorganisms helps to turn on specific immune cells that can target infectious bacteria and viruses.
Diet and lifestyle influence the diversity and composition of the bacteria in the gut, which in turn affect immune cells. So, it stands to reason that if you’re having issues with your gut, your immune system may suffer.
How To Support Your Immune System
You want these ‘good’ gut microbes on your side because, down the line, they’ll activate key immune cells that will defend you against disease-causing ‘bad’ microbes.
That’s why we like to say that the key to good health is gut health.
Take a moment to browse our site, featuring many blogs discussing how diet and lifestyle choices impact gut health.
And while you’re there, discover our complete line of digestive products that your immune system (and the rest of your body!) will love.
Have more questions about the link between gut health and immune health? Our Customer Service Team can’t wait to help! We’re available to answer your questions seven days a week at email@example.com or M-F from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at (800) 940-1972.