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.

What’s in a Name?
Shoshana Friedman “What does Writer X have to say this week?”
Atonement — Fake and Real
Yonoson Rosenblum White confessionals and faux rituals
Four Walls Coming Full Circle
Eytan Kobre All the while, there’s been a relationship in the offing...
And Yet We Smile
Yisroel Besser We are the nation that toils to be happy at all costs
Out of This World
Rabbi Henoch Plotnick Dirshu Hashem b’himatzo — we are in Hashem’s company now...
Steven and Jonathan Litton
Rachel Bachrach The co-owners of Litton Sukkah, based in Lawrence, NY
Tali Messing
Moe Mernick Tali Messing, engineering manager at Facebook Tel Aviv
Sick Note
Jacob L. Freedman “Of course, Dr. Freedman. Machul, machul, machul”
Avoiding Health Columns Can Be Good for You
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Only one reliable guide for good health: our Torah
Endnote: Side Notes
Riki Goldstein Most Jewish music industry entertainers have side profes...
Me, Myself, and Why
Faigy Peritzman Where there’s no heart and no love, there’s no point
Can’t Do It Without You
Sarah Chana Radcliffe When you step up to the plate, you build your home team
Eternal Joy
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz The joy of Succos is the fruit of spiritual victory
The Appraiser: Part III
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer Make sure your child knows his strengths
Hidden Special Needs
Rena Shechter You won’t see his special needs, but don’t deny them
Dear Wealthy Friend
Anonymous There’s no need for guilt. I am truly happy for you