On Tuesday, I told you about four supposedly “healthy” habits that can actually make you sick. There were too many to cover in one day, so allow me to continue today by shedding some light on even more common hygiene misconceptions…
- Not sharing utensils
There’s nothing better than a hearty dinner with family and friends. And in many places around the world, people aren’t afraid to share bites of food with one another and eat off someone else’s fork or spoon.
Of course, you shouldn’t share utensils with people who are actively ill with an infection…and certainly not with people you don’t know well.
But otherwise, it can actually be quite a healthy habit, as it may help improve the diversity of healthy probiotic bacteria in your gut’s microbiome. As I discussed in more detail on Tuesday, your microbiome is the environment in your GI tract where trillions of healthy probiotic bacteria thrive.
We’re learning more and more about how your microbiome influences your overall health. And we’re also learning more about how nutrients in food and supplements affect your microbiome — a concept I refer to as “biome-availability.”
I’ll be reporting a lot more about the importance of “biome-availability” and what it means for your health in the coming weeks and months.
- Long, hot showers in the morning
Long, hot showers not only waste water — they also strip your skin of protective oils and healthy probiotic bacteria. (That’s right, beneficial bacteria aren’t limited to your gut — you also have an entire microbiome on your skin. I talk more about this topic in the upcoming June issue of Insiders’ Cures. So, if you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started. Click here to sign up!)
You may also want to consider switching to an evening shower, since stepping out from the warm water into the cool air slows down your body’s metabolic processes — like breathing, digestion, and heart rate — which helps you relax and prepare for sleep.
- Over-cleansing your skin and hair
You might think you have to exfoliate to get rid of dead skin cells. However, this harsh process blocks your skin’s natural renewal process and turnover of epidermal cells, which is crucial in skin regeneration. As a result, you can suffer from premature aging and dryness. Plus, exfoliating your skin can easily backfire and cause excess oil production, triggering breakouts.
The same applies to excessive hair washing. Hair oils naturally lock in moisture and prevent your hair from drying. And overdoing it with harsh shampoos is a common problem.
In fact, you don’t need to use shampoo every time you shower. Even if you shower every day, you can just let the water naturally rinse away some of the oils. Aim to use actual shampoo once a week.
Of course, during the summer, you may want to lather up more often, but generally try to go at least a few days between shampooing. You can also use a dry shampoo (make sure it has all-natural ingredients) to reduce the appearance of oily hair.
You can even make your own dry shampoo at home with oil-absorbing ingredients — some of which may already be in your pantry, or can easily be found in your local grocery store. The process and ingredients are simple:
- ½ cup organic cornstarch (which can be found online or in any local health foods store)If you have dark hair, mix in 2 Tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder.
If you have red or auburn hair, mix in 2 Tbsp. of cinnamon.
- 3-4 drops of essential oil (choose any scent appealing to you)
- Combine all ingredients well and store in a container where you can easily shake the contents into your hand. (An unused salt shaker is a great option.)
- Start by shaking a small amount into the palm of your hand.
- Rub the mixture into your hair, especially close to your scalp and hairline above your forehead. Add more of the powder mix as needed.
- Brush through until no powder residue remains.
- Using Q-tips
You may think brown, sticky cerumen, otherwise known as ear wax, may need regular cleaning. But this “wax” — which is a combination of oils called sebum — serves an important purpose. It protects the health of your ear and your hearing.
So, don’t stick anything in your ear. Unless ear wax is impeding your hearing, leave it there. In other words, “if it ain’t blocked, don’t fix it.”
Granted, sometimes ear wax does get impacted, which can interfere with hearing.
But, once again, a Q-Tip isn’t the answer (and, in fact, can make things much worse). The good news is, you may be able to safely take care of the problem at home — without a visit to the ENT.
Try putting a drop of mineral oil in your ear every day for a few days. This trick should slowly loosen up the blockage. Once the cerumen becomes more “liquidy,” gently squirt clean water into your ear canal with a bulb syringe and wipe with a clean towel.
I hope you’ve learned something from this list of common hygiene misconceptions and will change some of these not-so-healthy habits in your own home. (If you missed the four habits I discussed on Tuesday, you can find them here.)
Remember, your body’s processes are in place for a reason and, most of the time, it’s best to let nature do the work it’s meant to do.
And a squeaky-clean, over-sanitized lifestyle is does not present an ideal picture for overall health.