Germs: How to Use the Good Ones and Oust the Bad

Germs, microbes, bacteria. . . call it what you will but they’re yucky, right? Well, not exactly. While it’s true that there are dangerous pathogens out there that can make us sick—that’s why it’s so important to wash our hands after we use the bathroom—our body is in fact full of microbes, “a microbial cloud . . . with ten times more cells of microbes than of human cells,” according to a TED talk from Jonathan Eisen, a biologist who studies the ecology and evolution of microbial communities and their co-evolution with their hosts.

In fact, most of the microbes out there can do us good rather than harm us, which is why you may have heard or read about probiotics, live organisms that live in your gastrointestinal tract and help clean out your stomach, consequently aiding digestion. In his book The Germ Files, author Jason Tetro, who’s an expert in microbiology, lays out a variety of ways that germs can make us healthier as well as how to avoid the bad guys.

Try Prebiotics: No, it’s not a typo. Prebiotics are the “food” that probiotics eat. While probiotics are found in foods like yogurt, and are also available in supplement form from your drugstore or doctor, prebiotics come in fiber-rich foods like raw banana, raw garlic, raw or cooked onions, baked wheat flour and raw wheat bran.


Drink apple cider vinegar: Before you say, “eww,” realize we’re just talking a few sips—one or two tablespoons diluted in a glass of water with a meal one to two times a day (taking it straight is bad for the enamel of your teeth and can be rough on your esophagus, according to WebMD). It’s full of probiotics and other good bacteria and can help with digestion and constipation. Unfiltered is best.


Eat more fermented foods. Besides yogurt, you can try things like pickles, kefir and kimchee. These foods are also natural probiotics and contain a broad range of good bacteria. The fermentation process in making sourdough bread is particularly helpful for those with gluten intolerances. This type of bread produces enzymes that break down gluten proteins called gliadins.


Don’t be too clean. While hand sanitizer is great in a pinch, soap and water is always better because they don’t kill off good bacteria.


Get your zzzs. When we don’t sleep eight hours a night consistently the microbes in our body get cranky, just like we do, and can wreak havoc on our bodies.


Change up your cosmetics frequently. Make-up, with its oils and high-fat ingredients, can breed dangerous pathogens.


Close the toilet seat when you flush. That’s right; this prevents the spread of fecal bacteria.


Open up the windows! When you have a house full of sickos, the best way to rid the bad germs is to let the fresh air in.



Photo Credit: CA-SSIS/Shutterstock


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