Good Bugs vs Bad Bugs - The Battle Inside Your Body

Bacteria and viruses, things we typically call 'bugs', are all around us. We cannot see these microscopic organisms travelling through the air or living happily on our computer keyboards, but they are present nonetheless. Our daily exposure to them has created an ongoing battle for pre-eminence within our bodies. It is a good bug versus bad bug war that will continue for as long as humankind exists on the earth.

Because there are just as many good bacteria as there are bad. If we were to eliminate all of the good bugs our bodies are exposed to, there would be a lot more sickness and disease in the world. Good bugs tend to balance out the bad, for the most part, keeping our bodies working the way they are supposed to. For purposes of clarification, let us look at a few examples.

Just the mention of the word 'bacteria' can cause some people to run for the antibacterial gel. Sometimes this is warranted, especially when dealing with bacteria we already know cause serious problems such as strep throat, meningitis and food poisoning. Salmonella bacteria are a good example. A person who accidentally ingests it by way of contaminated food could become violently ill; maybe even die. However, not all bacteria are bad.

Do you enjoy yogurt? If so, you are eating a food that is packed full of live, active bacteria. Nevertheless, the bacteria in yogurt are good for you. It helps to regulate your digestive system and clean out some of the bad bugs and toxins in your body. If you are someone who is lactose intolerant, you may find a friend in the good bacteria found in fermented milk. Studies have shown that these bacteria can help with digestion of dairy products, reducing cramps and diarrhoea.

Above and beyond the foods we eat, there are numerous forms of good bacteria that naturally live inside the body. They work to boost the immune system so that it can better fight off sickness and infectious disease. Without these bacteria, you would not be nearly as healthy as you are. Examples of these include a strain of probiotic Bifidobacterium bifidum, lives in your stomach and can help to repair stomach ulcers and treat constipation. Another good example is Lactobacillus acidophilus, which resides in the intestines & helps the digestion of food.

The world of viruses is very similar to that of bacteria in terms of having both good and bad. In the bad category, some of the main players that come to mind include HIV and the rhinovirus that causes the common cold. The streptococcus virus is another bad one that can cause severe sore throats and other uncomfortable symptoms. We should do our best to avoid exposure to these bugs.

On the other hand, some viruses are actually good for us. Those viruses can be found living right alongside the good bacteria in our digestive systems. Research suggests that these viruses can help protect us from sickness and disease in the absence of the necessary good bacteria that should be there but, for whatever reason, are not. In simple terms, the viruses act as reinforcements to bacteria in the war against infection.

One particular virus that is showing promising signs of being classed as good, is the HTLV-1 virus, which can significantly lower a person's chances of developing stomach cancer, if they're infected with the virus.

As you can see, there are both good and bad bugs we are exposed to every day. This tells us that it is not a good idea to go overboard in trying to prevent exposure to bacteria and viruses. We should do our best to stay healthy, but going to an extreme to combat bugs may actually be more harmful in the long run by not allowing our immune system to work as it is designed to work.

1. Live Strong – http://www.livestrong.com/article/337181-what-is-the-difference-between-good-bacteria-bad-bacteria/
2. New Scientist – http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26592-good-viruses-defend-gut-when-bacteria-are-wiped-out.html#.VNTcO9RGjUY
3. https://beckteria.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/good-viruses/

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