Good Germs

Did you know that you and I are not com­pletely human? That’s right. If you go strictly by cell count, then you find that the human body is 90% bac­te­ria. There are some­where on the order of 100 tril­lion bac­te­ria liv­ing on or inside your body, and most of them live in your gut.

Now it’s true that many microbes carry dis­eases and can wreak havoc with your health. But most of the bac­te­ria that call your body home are benign, and many of them actu­ally serve a ben­e­fi­cial pur­pose. Here are just a few rea­sons why a peace­ful sym­bi­otic rela­tion­ship with these lit­tle life­forms is recommended.

  • Imbal­ances in gut bac­te­ria have been linked to dis­eases rang­ing from dia­betes and obe­sity to autism. In fact, it’s thought that gut bac­te­ria in obese peo­ple are more effi­cient at pulling calo­ries out of food, lead­ing to fat build up.
  • Germs can help calm you down. Some bugs are thought to affect the pro­duc­tion of chem­i­cals that have a calm­ing effect on the brain.
  • Bac­te­ria that live on the skin help to keep your outer layer in tip-top shape. Wash­ing your hands to often or overuse of hand clean­ing deter­gent can get rid of these bugs and lead to con­di­tions like acne.
  • Bac­te­ria may influ­ence the chance of hav­ing a heart attack or stroke. Peo­ple with ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis (a thick­en­ing of arte­r­ial walls caused by cho­les­terol) have dif­fer­ent bac­te­ria in their guts than healthy peo­ple. It’s thought the bac­te­ria in healthy peo­ple help pro­duce carotenoids, an antiox­i­dant that helps shield peo­ple from angina and stroke.
  • Some bac­te­ria help with the absorp­tion of med­i­cines. This makes it eas­ier for some peo­ple to take sub­stances like Tylenol, for example.
  • Some researchers believe some bac­te­ria in your body may com­bat can­cer. They see a rela­tion­ship between inflam­ma­tion of the gut, a decrease in ben­e­fi­cial bac­te­ria, and increase of E. coli, and occur­rences of bowel cancer.