How often should you wash your hands
When I looked after young children in a school situation, I always encouraged them to wash their hands with soap and warm water after using the bathroom and of course before sitting down to eat.
It is what you do to instil good habits and becomes part of the daily school routine. It also helps to avoid passing sniffles and tummy bug germs from one child to the other. And this was long before the days of antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers. They only came into fashion just a decade or so ago.
Now we have gone full circle and schools and other institutions have come back to washing hands the traditional way.
And yet is all the hand washing actually necessary or even advisable?
Many allergy experts are now saying it is vital for our health to reduce the amount of hand washing and thereby allow friendly microbes to make their way back into our mouths. Some of these experts even go as far as urging us to eat dirt. But surely there is a difference between garden soil (known as dirt) and actual germs that are being passed around and could make us sick?
The rise in allergies
The number of people suffering from allergies (including eczema) has been rising since the 1970s in all developed countries, even reaching epidemic proportions, and caused by previously harmless pollen, house dust mites and even various foods.
It is hard to believe that the first documented food allergy was reported as recently as 1969. Now many schools operate a nut-free zone and even some restaurants and take out establishments offer a nut-free environment in their kitchens. If you or your children appear to be healthy, you probably can waive the necessity to wash your hands after going on public transport, chopping up vegetables, gardening or a walk in the park or the woods.
However, working with the preparation of meat in your kitchen, using the bathroom or when there is an outbreak of the sniffles or the tummy bug in your family makes the need to wash your hands more important.
It is more about common sense and there is a fine line between being too clean and increasing the health and diversity of your gut.
More and more we learning how important gut health is. The functioning of our immune system is extremely dependent on the normal inhabitants of our guts. For example, the 100 trillion microbes in our colon are absolutely key to digesting our food, producing vitamins and minerals and keeping our immune system on track.
What happens if the level of microbes in our gut drops drastically?
Well then we lose species diversity, making us prone to the wrong sort of response to otherwise harmless proteins - allergies and autoimmune disease can be the result.
And that loss of microbes can be caused by overuse and misuse of antibiotics, too much processed and refined food, too little fiber in our diets, not being breastfed as babies and even high C-section births in some countries (including the USA).
Our gut bacteria are partly inherited from our parents but are strongly affected by diet, lifestyle and environment. In some, it may well be affected by vaccines. While vaccine injuries were generally considered a direct assault on the brain, more recent studies have pointed to such injury beginning in the gut.
Those hunter-gatherers thousands of years ago had at least 40% more gut and mouth microbial species diversity than we do today.
It all goes back to sensible lifestyle choices
It is possible to alter your gut bacteria for better or worse in just a couple of weeks because of the lifestyle choices you make
Dietary fiber, sensible and regular exercise and sufficient and good quality sleep boost the variety and number of 'good bugs' but of course, junk food and antibiotics will quickly kill them off - allowing 'bad' bacteria to flourish.
Top 10 foods to improve your gut health
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Red wine
- Dark Chocolate
Ensuring you and your family have excellent gut health can mean the "washing of hands" habit becomes less important.
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