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Germs and Why We Need Them

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For every one human cell, there are an estimated 10 single-cell microbes in us or on us – that’s at least 100 trillion in all. Microbes are microorganisms, or to put it simply, bacteria. They live happily in our guts, on our skin and in our mouths and noses. Their presence keeps our immune systems strong.

Some of the bacterial cells in your body may cause you to get sick from time to time, but before you reach in horror for the hand sanitizer, you might want to keep the following in mind: Many of those bacterial cells work with your body to keep it balanced and healthy.

For example, the good bacteria that live in your intestines help your body make the best use of the nutrients in the food you eat. They also help turn what’s left over into waste. Without these good bacteria, your body couldn’t efficiently process the food you eat.

That doesn't mean you should throw cleanliness to the wind. Keeping things clean is smart, but going crazy using antibacterial hand soaps and overusing antibiotic medications is actually killing off the microbes that can help strengthen the immune system.

It’s important to maintain a balance of bacteria. For example, the balance of bacteria in your intestines can be negatively affected by antibiotics. Antibiotics can kill the good bacteria in your intestines and lead to C. difficile infection, a life-threatening diarrheal disease.

Your immune system can take care of most bugs on its own as long as it has the right materials: plenty of rest, lots of fluids and appropriate nutrition. That’s why, if you’re sick, one of the best things you can do is stay home and take care of yourself.

Another way to fight infections from germs and bacteria is to make sure you have the right immunizations, especially if you'll be traveling to other countries. Getting a flu vaccination yearly is strongly recommended, unless your doctor tells you otherwise. With a little prevention, you can keep harmful germs out of your way!


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