At first glance that statement seems redundant. But if you think about it, it really isn’t. Staying healthy is something we can actively do to help prevent something else from happening to us.
Don’t Spread Germs! Is That Enough?
Since COVID-19 entered our lives, we have all been reminded how to properly wash our hands. We’ve been shown how to cover our mouth & nose when we sneeze. We’ve been encouraged to avoid touching our face and to stay home if we feel sick. These are all fantastic behaviors that I practice and encourage everyone to practice. They are quite effective at reducing the spread of some germs. But these behaviors aren’t enough. Why? Because germs are everywhere.
We Are Only 10% Human
You read that right. According to the National Institutes of Health Microbiome Study the microorganisms living on and in our bodies at any given time outnumber our own human cells 10 to 1. Many of these microorganisms are harmless to us. Many of them are actually beneficial. But many are harmful pathogens that can cause us to get sick. Yet, for most of us, being sick is the exception rather than the norm. We are always hosting disease causing pathogens, but we aren’t always sick. We don’t fully understand the how or the why, but we are learning that supporting a healthy and balanced microbiome contributes to our overall health and immunity.
So How Do We Support Our Resident Microorganisms?
Unless you have been completely sheltered, you have likely heard about gut health and the importance of gut flora diversity. We know that eating cultured and fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut support diversity. We know that taking antibiotics disrupts that diversity and can lead to problems like yeast infections and disordered bowel function. But as a massage therapist, I want to focus on the organisms that live on our skin. Just as it is important to have diverse gut flora, it is equally important to have diverse skin flora. And like antibiotics, using antibacterial soaps can disrupt that diversity. I was happy to hear Drs. Birx and Fauci both recommend the use of plain soap rather than antibacterial soap for hand washing. Not only do antibacterial soaps disrupt the diversity of our microbiome, frequent use can lead to skin breakdown. Ask any nurse, or massage therapist. Broken skin creates opportunities for those pathogens who were content living outside, to find their way inside.
Healthy Skin Despite Frequent Hand Washing/Sanitizing
Despite the hand washing demands of a massage therapist, I have always managed to keep my skin healthy and intact. In addition to avoiding antibacterial soaps, I try to steer clear of soaps with heavy fragrances. Many synthetic fragrances, and even some natural fragrances can lead to skin sensitivity with frequent use. My preference is pure castile soap which you can find at most grocery stores and certainly at your local health food store. Hand sanitizers can be drying, due to the high alcohol content necessary to be considered disinfectant. That can lead to cracked skin. To these I like to add just a few drops of essential oils (5-6 drops per ounce). There are several essential oils that are non-irritating, nourishing and support healthy skin. Some of my favorites are: Lavender (Lavandula angustofolia), Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), and Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin). A little goes a long way, so there’s no need to overdo it.
Keeping your skin healthy and preventing skin breakdown is one excellent step to help avoid getting sick.