27 Aug What Bugs Us
What Bugs Us
Nurturing Healthy Microbes
Microscopic bugs called microbes can be found in your eyes, mouth, gut, skin, and everywhere else. But don’t be alarmed. Most of your microbes are useful. They help you digest food. They prevent dangerous infections in your organs. And so much more. They’re vital for your health.
This collection of microbes in your body includes bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Together, it’s called the human microbiome.
“The microbiome is just as important as the brain, liver, kidney, or heart,” says Dr. Eugene Chang, who studies gut microbes at the University of Chicago.
Scientists have cataloged the types of microbes that live in the human body. They’ve found that changes in your body’s bugs are linked with many health problems. These include diabetes, obesity, inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), and cancer. They can also cause skin disorders and tooth decay.
Certain things can harm the helpful microbes in your body. These include using antibiotics inappropriately or eating an unhealthy diet. Now, studies are starting to uncover ways to use microbes to improve your health.
Protect Your Body’s Microbes
Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed. Antibiotics are life-saving medicines. But they can also disrupt the healthy balance of microbes in your body.
Eat a diet high in fiber. Fiber is found in plants, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Limit foods that can hurt your gut microbes. These include sugar and fatty or highly processed foods.
Wash your hands when preparing food, before eating, or after handling pets or garbage. Learn more about handwashing (CDC).
Use hand sanitizer when you can’t use soap and water. Be sure it contains at least 60% alcohol. But washing with soap and water cleans more effectively.
Avoid antibacterial soaps and other products. These have little or no health benefit. But they can harm the protective microbes on your skin.
Be wary of “probiotics.” These products can be food or supplements. They may claim to restore a healthy microbe mix, but many have not been properly studied. Learn more about probiotics.