What are good bacteria?

What are good bacteria?

Patricia Feito, MD
Family Medicine
In our germ-conscious culture, bacteria often are associated with illness and uncleanliness. We carry around bottles of antibacterial gel, wash our hands and bodies with antibacterial soap and clean our kitchens and bathrooms with antibacterial wipes to ensure we are keeping ourselves and our families the healthiest we can be. Yet, while protecting ourselves against harmful bacteria, we’re forgetting that many bacteria help us and can even make us healthier. That’s right, healthier.

A batch of scientific and medical research over the past decade has uncovered that bacteria living in our bodies, especially in our intestines, have profound effects on our overall health. Food products and nutritional supplements boasting beneficial bacteria (probiotics) have emerged in our grocery stores and pharmacies, and key study findings point to the use of probiotics to manage or treat certain diseases or conditions. Overall, the studies show that when good bacteria are absent from our guts, our health suffers.
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
Many parts of your body teem with bacteria. Some are freeloaders, doing nothing but enjoying your hospitality. Others, however, are necessary for the well-working of the body. Without intestinal bacteria, for example, you wouldn't be able to digest your food as well. Without helpful bacteria on the skin, infectious microbes would have easier access. For this reason, strong detergents, antibacterial soaps, and vaginal douches can upset the delicate balance of bacterial flora by eliminating useful bacteria from the skin and vagina. A course of antibiotic medication can do likewise in the gastrointestinal tract and urogenital tract. Indiscriminately knocking out bacteria -- the good with the bad -- leaves vacancies. And vacancies provide opportunities for bad bacteria to move in and multiply, which they are very ready to do.
Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Good bacteria are often called probiotics (a term that means "for life") because of the role they play in keeping us healthy. These good bacteria produce substances such as acetic acid, which helps to destroy harmful bacteria. Two examples of these good bacteria are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria bifidum.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.