The Germ Theory
The “germ theory” was born from the discovery that different pathogens or organisms caused different types of infections in humans. French physician and microbiologist, Louis Pasteur dedicated much of his life to the discovery of these infectious organisms and the means of eradicating them in order to improve human health. This was the beginning of the war against microbes.
Albeit life-saving in many cases, killing pathogens instead of boosting the body’s immune system, has had some serious consequences that we are only now beginning to understand. In functional medicine, we believe that the immune system or “terrain” can often handle a variety of infectious organisms if properly trained and equipped to do so.
“Educating” Our Immune Systems
After we are born, our immune system requires education on what is a foreign invader or “non-self” and what is normal or “self,” so that reactions to either are appropriate. Examples of foreign invaders are bacteria, fungus, viruses and other pathogens. If this education (to our immune system) is not provided due to over-sanitization and hyper-cleanliness, our bodies can begin to attack things that are not foreign invaders such as food particles (for example dairy) and even our own tissues (autoimmune disease). 1
The importance of the introduction of pathogens during a child’s formidable years can be appreciated by exploring the connection to autoimmune diseases. In developed countries where people are hyper-vigilant about germ control, autoimmune diseases are more common. 2 3 4 5 In fact, there is a therapy called helminthic therapy, where subjects are intentionally given a parasite, and it has shown some positive results. 6 7This therapy works by helping to rebalance the immune system.
Anti-Bacterials or Soap?
According to the Environmental Working Group, a U.S. FDA advisory committee found that washing hands with soap and water was just as effective at killing germs as using anti-bacterial products such as hand sanitizer, which might also contain harmful ingredients such as triclosan.
Triclosan is an anti-bacterial compound that is linked to liver toxicity, thyroid disruption, is toxic to aquatic life once it reaches our water systems, and could also contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance according to the American Medical Association. 8. Washing with soap and water not only removes pathogens, but removes the dirt and grime where pathogens thrive. Hand sanitizer is not effective at removing physical dirt. In addition, it isn’t washed off the hands and is therefore absorbed into the body, bringing with it a host of chemicals.
Purell Hand Sanitizer ingredients and concerns about each 9:
- Fragrance – ecotoxicology, allergies, irritation, organ toxicity
- Tocopheryl acetate – cancer, ecotoxicology, allergies, contamination concerns due to hydroquinone
- Ethanol – enhances skin absorption, developmental/reproductive toxicity, organ toxicity
- Aminomethyl propanol – ecotoxicology, skin, eye and lung irritation, contamination concerns due to nitrosamines and oxazolidine
- Propylene glycol – enhances skin absorption, allergies, skin, eye and lung irritation, organ toxicity
- Isopropyl alcohol – developmental/reproductive toxicity, skin, eyes and lung irritation, organ toxicity
- Isopropyl myristate – skin, eye and lung irritation
- Glycerin – none identified
- Diisopropyl sebacate – none identified
- Carbomer – none identified
- Water – innocuous
What To Do About It
If you must use hand sanitizer, look for a natural one that uses essential oils. Or, just use essential oils straight up.
When purchasing soaps, be sure to read the ingredient list. They too, can contain toxic chemicals and fragrance. If you don’t understand what it is, your body won’t either.
I will leave you with the words of Louis Pasteur, uttered shortly before his death:
“The pathogen is nothing. The terrain is everything.” 10
- Webb, Lianne. Sprout right: nutrition from tummy to toddler. Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2010. ↩
- Leonardi-Bee, J.; Pritchard, D.; Britton, J. (2006). “Asthma and current intestinal parasite infection: systematic review and meta-analysis”. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine 174 (5): 514–523. ↩
- P Zaccone, * Z Fehervari, * J M Phillips, D W Dunne, and A Cooke (2006). “Parasitic worms and inflammatory diseases”. Parasite Immunol 28 (10): 515–523. ↩
- Pugliatti M, Sotgiu S and Rosati G. (July 2002). “The worldwide prevalence of multiple sclerosis” (PDF). Clin Neurol Neurosurg 104 (3): 182–191. ↩
- Weinstock JV, Summers R, Elliott DE. (2004). “Helminths and harmony”. Gut 53(1): 7–9. ↩
- Mortimer K, Brown A, Feary J, et al. (2006). “Dose-ranging study for trials of therapeutic infection with Necator americanus in humans”. Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 75 (5): 914–20. ↩
- “UI Study Finds Worm Eggs Help Patients With Severe Bowel Disorders – University News Service – The University of Iowa”. 24 May 2004. Retrieved 2007-10-01. ↩
- “Tip 5 – Wash those hands, but avoid Triclosan | Environmental Working Group.” Environmental Working Group. <http://www.ewg.org/research/healthy-home-tips/tip-5-wash-those-hands-avoid-triclosan> ↩
- “Purell Hand Sanitizer, Original || Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database | Environmental Working Group.” Environmental Working Group. <http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/product/515981/Purell_Hand_Sanitizer%2C_Original/>. ↩
- Murray, Michael T., and Joseph E. Pizzorno. Encyclopedia of natural medicine. Rev. 2nd ed. Rocklin, CA: Prima Pub., 1998: 7 ↩