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.


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