why do we need bacteria in our body

Youre completely covered in bacteria! But its fine because we all are. Were covered inside and out with bacteria and microbes. We are actually a very important part of their ecosystem. All of these microbes serve special purposes. They help us digest and process certain foods as well as fight off mental disorders like depression. They have even been linked to both causing and helping anxiety and autism. Its called your microbiome and the more research that scientists do, the more they realize it has a lot to do with what makes youyou! We have 10x more bacteria in our guts and on our bodies than we do actual cells. We have 2-5 pounds of bacteria on us and in us at any given moment. Because its bacteria, living and changing, it causes changes in us. For example, people who have been vegetarians for a few years may not have any bacteria in their gut that can digest meat because it eventually dies out. But, just like any other kind of bacteria, vegetarians can get these bacteria back from other people. Were constantly exchanging germs and microbes with other people in our environment. Everyone and everything we come into contact with is potentially changing who we are. Genetically, all of us are 99% the same because we share that much common DNA. Our microbiomes are only 50% similar, but the more time we spend with someone, the more of these bacteria we share.


Families living in the same house, using the same things, and in constant physical contact will naturally share their microbiomes with each other. If you have a pet, you actually share even more bacteria with them and then the pets pass them along to other family members. Tummy rubs are a powerful thing! How much of your personality is you and how much of it comes from your microbiome? When family members tend to act alike, is it from socialization or is it from the sharing of bacteria? We dont know how strong the connection is yet, but some scientists believe that its pretty big. They think introducing strains of bacteria into someone (in the form of a pill) could help with everything from eating disorders to depression, without messing heavily with body chemistry like current medications do. There are multiple projects going on right now to sequence the microbiome, just like we sequenced DNA over the last 10 years. Who knows what we will discover in another 10 years!
Jennifer Yttri, PhD Bacteria are everywhere, including your entire body. The bacteria in our body weighs as much as our brain 3 lbs! Bacteria can be harmful, but some species of bacteria are needed to keep us healthy. The bacteria on our skin, in our airways, and in our digestive system are the first line of defense against foreign invaders (pathogens) that can cause infection and other problems.


Bacteria also act as tuning forks for our bodys immune system, making sure its pitched just right. The immune system shouldnt be too sensitive or too sluggish: it needs to respond quickly to an infection but it shouldnt over-react. (If it does over-react and attacks the body itself, the result is an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or MS). Each person has a personalized collection of bacteria, called the microbiome. We acquire our first bacteria while being born, and every day our environment exposes us to more. Some of these bacteria will take up residence inside the body and help develop a robust immune system. The Good The species of bacteria that colonize our respiratory and digestive systems help set up checks and balances in the immune system. White blood cells police the body, looking for infections, but they also limit the amount of bacteria that grow there. Likewise, bacteria keep white blood cells from using too much force. Bacteria also help out by doing things cells are ill-equipped to do. For instance, bacteria break down carbohydrates (sugars) and toxins, and they help us absorb the fatty acids which cells need to grow.


Bacteria help protect the cells in your intestines from invading pathogens and also promote repair of damaged tissue. Most importantly, by having good bacteria in your body, bad bacteria dont get a chance to grow and cause disease. Of course, some species of bacteria in your body can result in diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. Usually, these diseases happen only when the normal microbiome is disrupted, but that can occur even from antibiotics. Antibiotics kill bacteria, and some of those will be good bacteria that we need to protect our health. When that happens, the bad bacteria that normally are kept in check have room to grow, creating an environment ripe for disease. Bad bacteria can exist at low levels in your body without causing harm or can grow too much and wreak havoc. Staphylococcus aureus can cause something as simple as a pimple or as serious as pneumonia or toxic shock syndrome. P. gingivalis can cause gum disease, and was recently linked to pancreatic cancer (read our find out more). Similarly, when not suppressed by good bacteria, Klebsiella pneumonia can cause colitis, and subsequently lead to colorectal cancer. In addition to allowing disease-causing bacteria to flourish, the elimination of good bacteria throws the immune system out of whack.


The result can be simple allergies or very debilitating autoimmune diseases. Without the right balance of bacteria, your body might suffer from constant inflammation. Inflammation is the bodys alarm system, which calls white blood cells to heal a wound or to get rid of infection. Chronic inflammation, however, can make the body more susceptible to autoimmune diseases and cancer, such as causing inflammatory bowel disease which if uncontrolled can cause colon cancer. Research suggests that efforts to make a cleaner environment, free from bacteria, are contributing to the rise in obesity, cancer, and heart disease. Experts are trying to figure out how probiotics (foods like yogurt with active cultures and dietary supplements that contain live bacteria) can improve our health. Research is underway so that in the future, specific bacteria may be prescribed as individually tailored treatments for patients. Our immune system needs the right combination of bacteria so we can stay healthy and rely less on medications. Antibiotics remain a powerful tool to keep us healthy but shouldn t be used when they aren t needed. The more we learn, the more we appreciate the power of the bugs inside of usto heal and not just to do harm.

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