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A naturopathic doctor’s perspective on oversanitizing

The Moose Jaw Public Library hosted an online Zoom meeting with a naturopath doctor to discuss how to boost the immune system

Society has increased the amount of hand sanitizer it uses to help combat the coronavirus, but a naturopathic doctor says that could have harmful effects on our immune system.

“Absolutely. This isn’t something new to the medical community,” Dr. Joel Guillemin said on Nov. 5 during an online Zoom meeting through the Moose Jaw Public Library. “I know a big community in the medical world is dentists. They’ve been saying this for a long time: oversanitizing everything — especially in oral health — is then causing problems for everything.”

Research shows that the overuse of antibiotics can kill off good and bad bacteria in the gut, which leads to long-term problems, he continued. With hand sanitizers, eliminating all the good bacteria from the skin can open people to the same issues.  

“It’s definitely a hot topic right now. A lot of the literature is supporting the state of saying, ‘Don’t get rid of too much of your good bacteria,’” Guillemin remarked. “A lot of it is coming down to public health initiatives. What is more important? Are they saying getting rid of COVID or protecting against all these other things?

“… It’s definitely a debate happening out there, and there are pros and cons, but I would say — just from my opinion — more cons by using too much hand sanitizer over and over again.”

Residents should continue to wash their hands with soap and water to eliminate the bad bacteria while keeping good skin contact.

For example, Guillemin pointed out most babies are born without bacteria as they grew in the womb. Since doctors want babies to acquire as much good bacteria as possible, they recommend that women have vaginal births over C-sections, that babies be placed into their parents’ arms right after birth for skin-to-skin contact, and babies be breast-fed over bottle-fed.

Wearing masks

Wearing masks could affect people’s health, especially the respiratory system, Guillemin said. The research he has read indicates there isn’t too much of a negative effect on the immune system specifically.

“What we do want to have happen, though, is good (and) different exposure to different molecules,” he continued. “I talked about how the digestive system is like an immune organ. Our respiratory tract is just as much like an immune organ, where it’s going to be that last line of defence before things get in.”

People should use their immune system to strengthen it, including exposing oneself to different bacteria to build up immunity, said Guillemin. Not exposing oneself to different bacteria is most clearly seen in children. Many don’t have good immunity between ages one and three, leading to autoimmune disorders, allergies, eczema or asthma. This is why acquiring some of that exposure is a positive thing.

“So just based on that alone, with the masks, we do want to have some sort of exposure,” he continued. “Now, whether it’s the virus we want to get exposed to or not, I don’t know. But it’s definitely an interesting topic right now with masks and our immune strength — the pros and the cons and what’s going to happen with that.”

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