Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



The Good Germs

Esther Ilana Rabi

To many of us, bacteria are dirty, germy, disease-causing organisms, so the idea of consuming a few billion a day might seem hard to swallow. But evidence is growing that certain bacteria may fight disease and actually make us healthier.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

“I went from strapping-young-athlete to famine-victim-with-unquenchable-thirst in four months,” says biologist Jonathan Eisen. “It came to a head on a backpacking trip. I was putting my head into puddles and drinking like a dog. That night, in the emergency room, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. “Something festered inside me. I wondered, what caused the diabetes? At the time, people thought that harmful bacteria had set my body to destroying its insulin-producing cells. That’s what doctors focused on for a long time, microbes that do bad things.” More than 90 percent of the cells in our bodies are foreign microbes (bacteria). That means that the bacteria living in our bodies — over 1,000 different types! — outnumber our own cells ten to one. Most of them live in our large intestine, aka the gut, with its tennis-court sized surface area. But it’s no cause for panic. “We are covered in a cloud of microbes, but these microbes do us good much of the time, rather than killing us,” Eisen says. “The microbial cloud that lives in and on us helps develop the immune system, fights off pathogens (harmful microbes), determines our metabolic rate, synthesizes vitamins, and may even shape our behavior.” We’re so affected by the “conversation” taking place between ourselves and our microbes that it’s impossible to think about human health without them. The relationship is so important that this gut flora is called “the forgotten organ.” Bacterial colonization begins at birth. In fact, babies born via cesarean section are at higher risk for obesity and diabetes, because they miss the bacterial immersion of the birth canal. And bottle-fed babies, not exposed to the beneficial bacteria of breast milk, are more prone to allergies, asthma, eczema, and celiac disease, as well as obesity.


To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


 
Out with the Girls
Yonoson Rosenblum Another progressive revolution that eats its own
And I Will Glorify Him
Eytan Kobre Herman Wouk “made G-d a bestseller”
What You've Learned
Alexandra Fleksher Allow me to let you in on what school is all about
Going Broke
Mishpacha Readers Reader feedback for “The Kids Are Going to Camp..."
Top 5 Ways Jews Try to Lose Weight
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Gaining weight and talking about losing weight
He Soaked Up Our Pain
Rabbi Yaakov Klein A tribute to Reb Shlomo Cheshin ztz”l
Leaving on a High Note
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman And then it happened. I knew it would
Family Matters
Baruch S. Fertel, MD, MPA, FACEP Not the answers they teach in medical school
Play the Night Away
Riki Goldstein May we all share simchahs, no strings attached!
Fast Thinking
Faigy Peritzman How we react when we're exempt from a mitzvah
Baalat Teshuvah
Rachel Karasenti Don’t ask, “So how did you become frum?”
Confessions of a PhD Graduate
Sarah Chana Radcliffe When it comes to parenting, we’re always learning
Dear Favorite Little Sis
Anonymous I ended up wanting to be like you
Who's Making My Phone Calls?
Sara Eisemann Should I be upfront that I’m calling for myself?