Can Germs Have Positive Effects on Your Health?

Remember to clean your hands! How many times do you hear this phrase every day? It is important to regularly wash your hands in order to stay healthy and maintain cleanliness. Washing your hands helps eliminate harmful germs that can make you sick.

But can germs also have positive effects? Absolutely! Continue reading to discover more about germs and how they can have both negative and positive impacts.

If you are wondering what germs actually are, don’t worry. They are not extraterrestrial forces or “cooties.” They are actually microscopic living organisms. They are so small that you need a microscope to see them.

Germs can enter our bodies in various unnoticed ways. Although some can cause illnesses and infections, such as sore throats, ear infections, and cavities, others are beneficial to our bodies. That’s right. Some germs are actually beneficial!

The four main types of germs are bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. For now, we will focus on bacteria.

You might be surprised to learn that your body contains over 100 trillion bacterial cells. That’s 10 times the number of human cells! How is it possible for your body to accommodate that many bacterial cells? Don’t forget how tiny they are: a single bacterium is one-thousandth the size of a regular human cell.

Some of the bacterial cells in your body may occasionally cause illnesses. However, many of these bacterial cells work together with your body to maintain balance and good health.

For example, the good bacteria that reside in your intestines help your body effectively utilize the nutrients from the food you consume. They also aid in the conversion of leftover substances into waste. Without these good bacteria, your body would not be able to efficiently process the food you eat.

Scientists also utilize bacteria in other significant ways. For instance, some medications and numerous vaccines are derived from beneficial bacteria.

In recent years, researchers have conducted extensive studies on beneficial bacteria. Some believe that excessive use of antibiotics may kill off beneficial bacteria, leading to obesity due to inefficient digestion.

Other researchers believe that beneficial bacteria may offer a wide range of benefits. Studies have indicated that beneficial bacteria may help prevent diabetes and asthma, regulate the immune system, and even protect against certain types of cancer. Bacteria that reside on your skin may also assist in preventing infections.

Researchers speculate that pharmaceutical companies may eventually develop medications that treat illnesses by increasing the amount of specific types of beneficial bacteria in the body. While it may take years for these types of drugs to become available, food manufacturers have already begun producing products that aim to increase the presence of beneficial bacteria in the body.

These products, ranging from yogurt to cereal to beverages, contain probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion and may also combat harmful bacteria. Early research suggests that probiotics may help prevent colds and the flu, treat diarrhea, reduce certain types of cancer, and even prevent certain skin problems.

Give It a Try

Are you interested in learning more about beneficial bacteria? Make sure to explore the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • Are you able to defend yourself against invading germs? Test your skills by playing Bug Defense online and see how many points you can earn. How far can you progress? Challenge a friend to beat your high score!
  • Ask an adult friend or family member to take you on a field trip to a local grocery store. Explore the aisles and look for foods that contain probiotics. The yogurt section is a good place to start. You could also check the medicine aisle to see what digestion-related products they have. If possible, try some yogurt or another probiotic food product. Do they taste different from similar non-probiotic versions?
  • Some germs can make us ill, while others can provide various benefits. As a potential future scientist, how would you separate the beneficial germs from the harmful ones? What method would you use to create a new hand soap that specifically targets bad bacteria? Consider different ways to eliminate harmful germs while promoting the growth of beneficial ones.

Sources of Wonder


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