Why I Don’t Use Hand Sanitizers

Dear Health Conscious Reader,

I went out to my favorite Thai restaurant with my friend Lisa B. the other day. Instead of washing her hands, she rubbed hand sanitizer on while we were waiting for our food. Then she handed it to me. But I told her I wasn’t touching the stuff.

The truth is, hand sanitizers don’t do what they’re intended to do.

A new University of Virginia study tested hand sanitizers on two groups of people.1 One used hand sanitizers every three hours for 10 weeks. The other group just went about their daily lives, as usual.

The result? There was no difference in the viruses on the hands of the participants in the two groups.

And that’s a good thing. Because being exposed to germs can help prevent a ton of health problems. Like heart trouble, for example.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Northwestern University researchers found that bacteria exposure protected people from high levels of C-reactive protein.

That’s a big deal and it even surprised me a little.

In case you haven’t read this before, a high level of this protein in your blood can cause inflammation. High C-reactive protein has even been associated with diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.2

Bottom line: Not only do you not need hand sanitizers to fight off germs, it’s a very bad idea to use them. What you really need to do is be exposed to bacteria and build a stronger immune system.

Here are some easy ways to super-charge your immunity:

First, get some good-old fashioned sleep. It’s one of the best ways to fight off bugs. And with the right levels of melatonin, you’ll have no problem getting eight hours of shut eye. This natural, protective hormone helps you fall asleep and keeps you sleeping deeper throughout the night. To increase melatonin naturally, spend time each day in bright, natural sunlight. Then go to sleep in a completely dark bedroom. Wear a sleep mask if you have to. You can also buy a melatonin supplement at most vitamin shops. Look for drops, or a sublingual that melts under your tongue. It’s easier to absorb and works fast. Start with 0.5 mg and work your way up to 3 mg max. Take it 20 minutes before you want to fall asleep.

The next thing you should do is eat natural foods. They’re the BEST source for the vitamins and nutrients you need to prevent colds. Load up on immune-boosting foods like red and pinto beans, blueberries, cranberries, artichokes, raspberries, strawberries, apples, plums, pecans, oranges, and green leafy veggies. These foods will help you fight off infections and protect your cells from damage.

Also, if you think you’re at increased risk of being exposed to viruses or bacteria, you could bump up your selenium, which protects against viruses like H1N1. When you’re at risk, I recommend 100 mcg a day.3

And finally, you can boost your immunity by eating garlic. It’s one of nature’s best antibiotics. And unlike antibiotics, it doesn’t kill off the good bacteria in your gut while fighting off the bad stuff. All you need are a few cloves a day to wipe out germs. You even can create your own natural “V8” by blending some tomatoes, sea salt, garlic cloves and your favorite mix of veggies.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

  1. Turner, Ronald B., University of Virginia, Annual Meeting of Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, in Boston, 2010
  2. McDade, T.W., et al, “Early origins of inflammation: Microbial exposures in infancy predict lower levels of C-reactive protein in adulthood,” Proc Biol. Sci. Apr. 7, 2010; 277 (1684):1129-37
  3. Yu, L., “Protection from H1N1 Influenza Virus Infections in Mice by Supplementation with Selenium: A Comparison with Selenium-Deficient Mice,” Biol. Trace Elem Res. May 20, 2010
  4. Whitehouse MW, Macrides TA, Kalafatis N. “Anti-inflammatory activity of a lipid fraction (Lyprinol®) from the N. Z. green-lipped mussel.” Inflammopharmacology. 1997;5:237-46.