Germs have gotten a somewhat undeserved reputation. For decades, people have done what they can to avoid these unseemly organisms, thinking that exposure to germs is the single-best way to get and remain sick. Certainly there are germs that a person would be wise to avoid. However, not all germs must be avoided.
Germs are tiny organisms that can enter the body through open cuts, the mouth, the nose, and the eyes. Germs are found all over the world. The four main types of germs include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. Bacteria are a type of germ that often get a bad rap but actually may have benefits that outweigh their negatives.
Bacteria are tiny, one-celled creatures that get nutrients from their environments to live. In some instances, that environment is the human body. Bacteria can reproduce inside and outside of the body. While bacteria that cause repeated infections might be considered bad, there actually are a host of good bacteria. Such bacteria help people digest food and protect against gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea. Some bacteria may help people fight off illnesses caused by other bacteria or viruses, says research published in the journal Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology. Beneficial bacteria may help stimulate the immune system so that the body is better able to fight off diseases naturally.
People frequently overlook good bacteria in an effort to eradicate bad bacteria, and that can have serious detriments. Unfortunately, the “antibacterial” products available for cleaning and medicines used for treating bacterial illnesses do not discriminate between good and bad germs. They simply eradicate them all. Heathline says that this can create an imbalance of bacteria in the body that may lead to harmful bacteria taking over. Harmful bacteria also may evolve to resist common treatments because of the overuse of antibacterial and antimicrobial medicines and products.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that antimicrobial agents have been used for the last 70 years to treat patients with infectious diseases. Although they’ve helped treat illnesses, these drugs have enabled the organisms they’re meant to destroy to adapt to them, making the drugs less effective. Some bacteria are even resistant to certain antibacterial drugs. The CDC says each year in the United States at least two million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics – with at least 23,000 people dying as a result of these infections.
Various medical sources urge that regular hand washing with plain soap is enough for cleansing. Consuming foods with naturally occurring helpful organisms, such as yogurt, chocolate, feta cheese, pickles, and dark chocolate, can help increase the levels of good bacteria in the body. Taking a probiotic supplement also may help, although researchers at the Cleveland Clinic report that there is not enough proof to say for sure.People should speak with their doctors before taking probiotics or other steps to increase bacteria to make sure they are a wise decision for each individual.