The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Bacteria

bacteriamultiplyIt is a well known scientific fact that for every cell in the human body, there are roughly 10 corresponding bacteria. From the skin surface to the inner structures, our bodies are swarming with bacterial colonies. For most individuals, bacteria are bugs that cause disease and just bring misery to those infected. However, this is far from the truth. Without some of these bacteria, the body systems necessary for life would shut down. There are good bacteria that are beneficial to the human beings and also bad bacteria that cause disease. The good ones, also referred to as Probiotics, inhabit the human body without causing disease and in the process provide immense benefits to the body. In return, they find a home and get food for survival. Read on to find out about the immeasurable benefits that good bacteria bring to our bodies and the detrimental effects that bad bacteria can have.

The Human body is a colony of bacteria. Many parts of our bodies are colonized by bacteria. However, the bulk lies on the skin and in the gut.

Bacteria on skin

The skin being the largest organ of the body serves as an interface between the body and the external environment and is tasked with the job of acting as a barrier from external hazards. In this aspect, the good bacteria residing on skin such as staphylococcal epidermidis come in handy. They achieve the task of protecting the body from bad bacteria by multiplying and enlarging their colonies; hence, taking up any space that the bad bacteria would have used to proliferate. In this regard, since a long time, the good bacteria have also been used to prevent eczema in infants. However, this effect so far is only proven to work in children.

Recent research has shown that these microbes (good bacteria) can reduce the skin aging process. They help the skin to retain its moisture and therefore ensure a smooth and soft complexion. It is also believed that the bacteria can protect the skin from damaging sun rays. Acne is a distressing condition and people with acne go to any extent in an effort to eradicate it. Acne is caused by the Propionibacterium acne bacterium. Research has shown that when the acne causing bacteria was cultured together with lactobacillus, the growth of the former ceased, providing new insight into the treatment of acne.

Effect of hygienic measures on good bacteria

Some hygienic measures that are undertaken also eradicate the good bacteria from the skin. For instance, use of antibacterial soap on the skin wipes off the good bacteria from the skin, leaving the bad bacteria to have a field day. Swarming numbers of unhealthy bacteria increase the risk of developing skin rashes, and infections. In case there is a cut or wound present on the skin, the probability of it becoming infected is also increased.

It is common knowledge that keeping hands clean is a simple and cheap way to keep diseases at bay. Both good and bad bacteria are present on our hands. The average palm has about 150 bacteria types. A study conducted at the University of Colorado found some interesting facts about bacteria found on the hands. It stated that women have more types of bacteria as compared to their male counterparts. However, bacteria present in the women were less dangerous. It was also discovered that 2-4 hrs after washing hands, the initial bacteria type and count were restored.

Use of hand sanitizer is a common practice. However, the beneficial effects of hand sanitizer are not all they are hyped to be.  Active ingredients in the sanitizer destroy bacteria present on the hands indiscriminately; both good and bad are eradicated. An individual loses the barrier effect of the good bacteria and this gives an opportunity to the bad bacteria to proliferate.

Bacteria in the gut

The largest reservoir of bacteria in the body is found in the gut. Running from the mouth to the rectum, this tract is heavily inhabited by numerous types of micro organisms, some of which are still unknown to man. As usual, both good and bad bacteria are present in the gut. It is impossible for the digestion and absorption processes to take place without the help of the good bacteria. In addition, they help in the absorption of water from the gut, decrease the number of harmful bacteria, synthesize vitamins B and K, and make bile acids among other benefits. The good bacteria limit the growth of bad bacteria by altering the gut PH and making it uninhabitable for bad bacteria. It also digests some of the bad bacteria.

Good bacteria help in improving immunity

Good bacteria are also beneficial for the development and build up of the immune system. Children raised in a sterile environment have a higher likelihood of developing atopy (a predisposition to develop hypersensitivity reactions to allergens) as compared to those who are exposed to germs from an early age.

Good bacteria help in the management of diseases

In modern medicine, good bacteria have helped to bring new understanding in the management of some diseases. For instance, some probiotics have been found to increase the rate of metabolism; hence, enhance weight loss in obese patients and also decrease insulin resistance in patients suffering from Type 2 diabetes. Good bacteria have also been found useful in the prevention and management of cancer. (

Factors that lower the counts of good bacteria in the body

There are habits that lower the counts of good bacteria in the body including the use of oral antibiotics and alcohol, intake of highly refined and sugary foods. The upside is that when depleted, good gut bacteria can be replenished through use of foods and supplements. Foods that boost the numbers of beneficial bacteria include yoghurt, milk, soy, miso, kombucha and kefar. Prebiotics are non digestible ingredients found in food that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria. Prebiotics can be sourced from asparagus, garlic, leek, onion and artichoke, all of which are rich in inulin. Supplements like probacto which combine both probiotics and prebiotics are available as well.

Some common examples of bad bacteria

Examples of bad bacteria in the gut are salmonella and clostridium. Fungi such as Candida, though not bacteria is also harmful. They are most often responsible for diarrheal illness and food poisoning. The bad bacteria get access to the gut after ingestion of contaminated food or failure to observe hygienic measures.

To sum it up, the following table lists examples of good and bad bacteria that are present in the body.

The Good Bacteria The Bad Bacteria
Lactobacilli Clostridium
Bifidobacterium Salmonella
Enterococcus Staphylococcus
Streptomyces Legionella
Caulobacter Streptococcus
Cholers bacteria Listeria

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