From a young age, we are taught to think of germs as villains, meant to be avoided at all costs. The truth is that not all germs are bad. In fact, some of them are good for you. The question is, what's the difference between good germs vs. bad germs?
What Are Germs?
As the Mayo Clinic explains, germs—also known as microbes—are everywhere, including the soil, the air, the food we eat, and even in our bodies. These microbes come in a variety of forms:
- Bacteria are one-celled microorganisms. Some bacteria are harmful and produce toxins that can make you ill, while others are beneficial and can help destroy disease-causing organisms.
- Viruses are even smaller than a single cell. They take over host cells within your body and reproduce, damaging the cells and making you sick.
- Fungi are also classified as germs, some of which we eat, such as mushrooms and yeast used in bread.
- Protozoans are another type of germ; these single-celled organisms feed off of other microbes.
- Helminths, which are larger parasites, are also categorized as germs and include roundworms and tapeworms.
Good Germs vs. Bad Germs
Once you understand the types of germs that exist, it's a little easier to pinpoint which ones are beneficial and which are harmful.
Bacteria are a major component of cellular life, as a report in Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences explains, and they exist everywhere on Earth, including our bodies. However, before you freak out, realize that not all bacteria are harmful. Many of the ones that reside within your own body can be helpful. As Harvard Medical School notes, probiotics are a category of beneficial bacteria that can improve immune function, improve digestion and absorption of food and nutrients, and protect against harmful bacteria.
Of course, some bacteria are bad, such as the bacteria that cause illnesses, such as strep throat. Viruses can also invade and attack your body's cells, causing a variety of diseases, including the flu and the common cold.
If you're a fan of mushrooms, fine cheeses, or yeast-filled foods, such as sourdough bread, then you've tasted some of the benefits of fungi. However, other fungi, such as molds and poisonous mushrooms, are dangerous. Fungi can also cause certain skin conditions, such as athlete's foot and ringworm.
Balancing the Good and Bad Germs on Your Body
When it comes to protecting your body from harmful germs, the best line of defense is good old-fashioned hygiene, such as proper hand-washing and cleaning your living spaces. But remember: having some bacteria on the skin is perfectly natural. While it's vital to wash your hands before you eat or prepare food, after using the bathroom, or after you've been in contact with someone who is ill, Harvard Medical School explains that excessive handwashing can damage skin, which can worsen cuts and cause cracks that can harbor more bacteria.
You can use products that change the balance of good and bad bacteria on the body. Probiotics are a type of good bacteria naturally found on your body, and nutrients called prebiotics can help them grow and thrive. You likely already obtain prebiotics without knowing it through your diet. Additionally, using personal care products that contain these nutrients, such as prebiotic soap, can help to keep your skin in healthy balance.
Keeping your body healthy doesn't mean having to rid yourself of all germs. By maintaining good hygiene and helping the good bacteria in the body thrive, you can maintain a healthy balance in your body's microbiome.
Learn more about how to use natural products to help maintain a healthy bodily balance on the Naturally Good Products board by @tomsofmaine on Pinterest!
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Why It's Good
Not all germs are bad—in fact, some can help to keep you healthy. You can maintain a healthy body microbiome by giving those good germs a boost with prebiotics.