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coronavirus

How safe is Hand Sanitiser?

As a Functional Health Coach one of the areas that I work on with clients is cleaning up their home environments. This is a key step towards recovery for those suffering from autoimmune disorders like alopecia or Hashimoto’s. For starters we look at water and indoor air. Together we examine other areas that have the potential to create problems: for example, fire retardants on new furniture, metals leaching from cooking equipment, toxins in skincare, etc. Everyone’s home environment is unique, it’s key to have a systematic approach to this.

I don’t just talk about these issues! I do actually apply everything that I’ve learned in my training to minimise these daily risks that we encounter. Last week I went shopping with my daughter in the Trafford Centre and noted that every single shop had hand sanitiser near to their entrances. This is a sensible approach to minimise the risk of catching coronavirus after you cautiously leave your home following weeks of lockdown. That said, hand sanitiser can produce some unwanted side effects when combined with other chemicals.

BPA

We’ve known about BPA and it’s negative health impacts for years. I remember first hearing about it with regards to, specifically, the lining of tomato cans. BPA or bisphenol A is found in plastics, aluminium cans used for foods, and critically thermal paper e.g. cash register receipts. It’s an endocrine disruptor which means that this chemical can interfere with your endocrine (hormonal) system. What does this mean? Studies have shown links with this chemical and insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, cancer, liver damage and ADHD. (1)

The National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences states that even low doses of hormonal disrupting chemicals may be unsafe. This is because your body’s normal endocrine functioning involves very small changes in hormone levels, yet these small changes can create significant developmental and biological effects. An endocrine disruptor like BPA can increase or decrease normal hormone levels, mimic the body’s natural hormones or alter the natural production of hormones. (2)

Unfortunately chemicals which were supposed to remove BPA from our environment, like TPP (triphenyl phosphate) which enable manufacturers to use the ‘BPA free’ label on plastics still produce estrogenic activity (EA). (3)

Coronavirus and BPA

Perhaps the area that we should be most focused on today given the fact that we’re living through this time of coronavirus is that of thermal paper (commonly used for till receipts, transport tickets, restaurant orders from front of house to the kitchen). In 2014 a study showed that people who were handling lots of receipts had increased levels of BPA in their urine and blood. (4) While another 2014 study found that “data show after holding a receipt for 60 sec, there was 185-times more BPA transferred to a wet hand due to holding thermal receipt paper immediately after using hand sanitizer with penetration enhancing chemicals as opposed to when the hands were dry”. (5)

Given that we are all using hand sanitisers significantly more in an attempt to remain safe during this pandemic, we should be aware of this increased risk. Let’s face it we’ve already ran out of sanitiser once in the UK, I even have a quick recipe on my site giving instructions on how to make your own. https://practicalhealthcoach.uk/how-to-make-hand-sanitiser-at-home-using-ingredients-that-you-probably-already-have-lying-around/Other cosmetics like lotions and moisturisers also enable lipid-soluble chemicals like BPA to be absorbed by the skin.

More recently last year, a study examined BPA and BPS (bisphenol S) in receipts from Brazil, France and Spain and found that hormone-like activity was found in >80% of the paper, and that the BPA levels were 30 to 100 times higher than the EU recommended level of 0.2mg/g. The United States currently has no minimum recommended levels for these endocrine disrupting chemicals. (6)

What can you do?

So what can you do to minimise your contact with thermal paper while still following safety protocols for CV-19:

·        Have a receipt emailed to you if that’s an option.

·        Leave the receipt!

·        Use gloves.

·        Don’t keep receipts in pockets, or lying around the bottom of your bag.

·        Don’t touch thermal paper if you’ve just used hand sanitiser.

·        If you must take a receipt, fold it inwards on itself and put in a rubbish bin as soon as practicable.

·        Exercise caution if you’re in a vulnerable group: for example, pregnant women, pre-conception couples, working in an environment which has significant contact with thermal paper, children and adolescents.

Notes:

  1. https://chriskresser.com/re-examining-the-evidence-on-bpa-and-plastics/
  2. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4063249/
  4. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1832525
  5. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0110509
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0013935118306820#!

Which vitamins support your immune system?

I’m lucky enough to have two parents in their 70s. My Dad, in particular, is part of the at risk group for coronavirus, as he used to smoke 40+ a day for 40+ years and my Mum was exposed to all of that second-hand smoke. Right now no-one in my immediate family is taking an immunosuppressant which would increase their risk of picking up any cold or virus going. So which vitamins and minerals support your immune system?

This is how we’re staying as healthy as possible. In addition to the common sense steps recommended by the WHO (not THE WHO) https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses we’re taking the following vitamins. While ordinarily I’d recommend a food first approach, I’m using these vitamins as back-up in case of a lack of access to fresh food.

Vitamin A: Supports cell growth, it acts as an antioxidant and is critical in maintaining the structure of mucosal cells (like those which line your respiratory and GI tracts). A lack of this vitamin results in poor night vision, keratosis pilaris aka ‘chicken skin’ that appears on the back of arms, dry skin, dry eyes, eczema, psoriasis, hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease and infertility. 

Best food source: Liver (from cows, sheep, chickens, geese, turkeys or fish) followed by egg yolks, it’s a fat soluble compound so requires fat to be absorbed.

Note: Taking Vitamin A along with Vitamins D and K2 significantly reduces the potential risk of vitamin A toxicity.

Vitamin D: Increases intestinal absorption of calcium and is a known immune modulator. If your levels of Vitamin D are outside of the optimal range then your immunity can be compromised which increases your risk of infections. You can find this vitamin in food, sun and supplements. I like the dminder app which calculates how much Vitamin D you’re being exposed to depending on your skin type, location and clothes. This article by Chris Kresser will give you more info on Vitamin D https://chriskresser.com/vitamin-d-the-new-super-nutrient/.

Best food source: Cod liver oil, fish, shellfish, grass-fed meat.

Vitamin K2: Works in synergy with Vitamins A and D. It may prevent toxicity from these other two fat-soluble vitamins.

Best food source: Natto (Japanese fermented soy product), Gouda, Brie, Poultry liver

Vitamin C: Probably the best known vitamin for supporting the immune system. It’s an antioxidant and a cofactor for many enzymatic reactions like producing collagen and neurotransmitters. It’s not stored in the body so we have to obtain it from our diet or supplements as we can’t produce it ourselves. A deficiency results in poor wound healing and fatigue. Good levels of Vitamin C reduces all causes mortality risk. That said, there’s some controversial evidence that large doses of this vitamin can block the actions of anticoagulant drugs. I prefer to take liposomal Vitamin C, but given the cost of purchasing this form I’m choosing to alternate with other types.

Best food source: Red peppers, citrus fruits, kiwis, strawberries, grapefruit.

Vitamin E: Another fat soluble vitamin that’s needed to maintain proper immune function. Are you seeing a theme here?

Best food source: Avocados, olives, nuts and seeds.

Zinc: This mineral is necessary for both the development and function of immune cells. It functions as a cofactor for over 300 enzymes and chemical reactions. Like Vitamin C it can’t be stored in the body and so you need to make sure that you’re consuming it regularly or supplementing. Zinc is a cofactor that helps to convert Vitamin A to its active form.

Best food source: Oysters, red meat, cheese, crab, turkey.

While I would always prefer to obtain these vitamins from food which increases their bio-availability, I’m trying to cover my bases by having them on hand in case of drastic measures such as isolation. You can see that the majority of best food sources come from animal products, so veggies and vegans should be ready to start supplementation. These vitamins and minerals are necessary to support your immune system.