Are Germs Good for You?

germs are good for you

 

Is our germaphobic nature helping or hurting our immune systems?

You see them everywhere. Those little tubes of antibacterial hand sanitizers that come in a myriad of different scents. They take up space in people’s purses and hang on their key chains. They even have cute little carrying cases for them. But is hand sanitizer really necessary? Is our need to rid ourselves of all germs hurting us? Are germs good for you?

The answer is yes. yes and yes! Germs are good for you and we don’t need fewer germs we need more!

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase through the links, we may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. However, all my opinions are my own.

Before we get to why germs are good for you let’s do a snack bite summary of what germs actually are. Germs are tiny living organisms that are so small you can’t even see them without a microscope. Germs are made up of four main types, bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa. Your body already contains trillions of bacterial cells. There’s no amount of hand sanitizer that can banish those and you shouldn’t even try. Your body needs those little babies.

Those probiotics that everyone is pushing these days? They’re made of good bacteria! The good bacteria that are in your gut can help aid digestion, help prevent colds and the flu, treat diarrhea and constipation and so much more. Your body’s mind/gut connection is strong and when your bacteria is off in your microbiome it impacts everything.

[clickToTweet tweet=”The human body has approximately 90 trillion microbes, outnumbering cells by almost 10 to 1. If bacteria were all bad we’d already be dead! #buddhabelly #guthealth #microbiome #probiotics” quote=”The human body has approximately 90 trillion microbes, outnumbering cells by almost 10 to 1. If bacteria were all bad we’d already be dead!”]

The human body has approximately 90 trillion microbes, outnumbering cells by almost 10 to 1. If bacteria were all bad we’d already be dead!

 



Why do you need good germs?

 

why germs are good for you

 

As a child, your first introduction to germs is when you’re born from your mother’s whoo-ha. Babies born from C-sections are more likely to have digestion issues because they don’t receive that major dose of bacteria right from the get-go. It’s super important that children are exposed to germs because that is when they are building the foundation of their immune system.

Does this mean that you should forgo giving yourself or your child the flu vaccine or other vaccines? No. Does it mean they need to be off eating mudpies so they can avoid digestive issues in the future? A big fat NOPE! Although, that actually wouldn’t be that bad for them. What it does mean is that you shouldn’t actively try and shield them from every germ under the sun. Pick and choose your germaphobic fights! That pacifier that fell on the ground? Just lick it and stick it back in. Unless of course, you dropped it in a fat of pathogenic viruses. Then I have some other questions for you.

Germs are good for you and your kids too. There’s a ton of reasons not to shield your children from it. Kids who grow up with pets are less likely to get asthma. Children who are routinely exposed to other children are less likely to end up with allergies and asthma. And that antibacterial handwash? Ditch it. Antibacterial soap manufacturers have yet to prove that their soaps do anything beneficial. It kills off the good and bad bacteria and leaves trails that make it harder for the good bacteria to recolonize. Instead, learn to wash your hands properly and do so before preparing food, after going to the bathroom, before eating, etc. Antibacterial handwash can’t take the place of washing your hands no matter how convenient it is.

It’s not just kids who need to be exposed to germs though. It’s you too! Good bacteria help our bodies digest food and absorb the nutrients our bodies need. They also produce several vitamins you may recognize like folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12. According to this study, good bacteria help crowd out the bad bacteria so it can’t thrive in our bodies. It also strengthens the immune system so it can fight the bad buggers. You will get sick and fell crummy without good bacteria.

Antibiotics have been causing huge issues for our digestive systems and are one of the main causes of why we are seeing so many gut health issues today. Taking antibiotics for a cold is not necessary and actually causes harm by destroying the good bacteria in your body. That good bacteria is what we talked about above that prevents so many nasty health issues! You can also develop an immunity to antibiotics so they may not be there to get you out of trouble when you actually need them. There are definitely times when antibiotics are needed, but when your doctor is offering them to you make sure to ask if your body might be able to fight this on its own.

How do I get good germs and protect the ones I have?

 

 

One of the best methods of getting good germs is to eat a variety of different foods. Especially foods that contain probiotics naturally, like yogurt, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, and kimchi. I’m a huge fan of sauerkraut and kimchi because they make great side dishes to whatever you’re eating.

Probiotics are another great source of healthy bacteria. While the jury is still out on if probiotics can help increase the beneficial bacteria in your microbiome longterm I believe it definitely helps in the short-term. If you have taken antibiotics recently or had food poisoning I highly suggest taking a quality probiotic to increase your number of good bugs so that they can fight the bad ones. Currently, I take VSL #3 and noticed an immediate spike in energy and mood when I started. It’s also the only probiotic out there that has been tested by the FDA and can be prescribed by doctors (that I know of). Before that, I was on Prescript-Assist which I also loved. The only reason I went off is that you need to cycle your probiotics once a year because your body gets used to it.

A great way to protect your microbiome is to avoid antibiotics when possible because they kill the good bacteria along with the bad. There is a time and place for everything so if your doctor says you need antibiotics then you need antibiotics. Just follow up with some probiotics. But often doctors will simply prescribe antibiotics for a simple cold just to placate their patients and it doesn’t even do anything for the cold.

I know it’s easier said than done, but avoid stress! Stress puts your body into a state of constant fight or flight mode. When your body is stuck in that place it can’t repair or take care of itself and your immune system will suffer. Need to destress? Check out my posts on meditation here and here. Meditation has helped me so much with being able to find my peace in moments that were not so peaceful. It has literally changed my life and I want everyone to know about it!

Avoid things that can hurt your good bacteria like sugar, gluten, dairy, and caffeine. Ouch, I know, I felt that one right in my heart too! I’m a caffeine addict through and through. Don’t freak though. I still consume all of the above, but I just do it in moderation. Knowing that a diet high in sugar can cause changes in my microbiome and that caffeine heightens my fight or flight mode helps me to avoid those around 80% of the time. Life isn’t worth living if you can’t have a gluten-free pizza here or there!

Get dirty! A little mud won’t hurt ya. I love this study that shows that houses with dogs have a certain kind of dust that exposes us to, Lactobacillus, a beneficial strain of bacteria. Avoid antibacterial everything (it’s even in workout wear!) and any alcohol-based sanitizers.  Let your children be exposed to dust, dirt, pollen, and animals so that their body can learn to fight it off. The best time to develop a good immune system with good bacteria is as a child.

So how do I avoid the bad germs?

 

So now maybe you’re actually thinking some germs are good for you, but what about the ones that aren’t? Every germ except viruses is pretty much harmless. Viruses are the villain in the story of germs and antibacterial handwash and cleaners are useless against them. Viruses are the germs that cause the flu, colds and other intestinal issues. So while germs are good for you not all of them are.

Most people think of schools, public restrooms, and restaurants when they are trying to think of the germiest places out there, but your germ war is going to be fought at home! You spend the majority of your time there and typically schools, public restrooms and restaurants have sanitary conditions that they must meet.

The best ways you can fight bad germs is to use separate cutting boards and utensils for produce and for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. It’s super easy to accidentally contaminate your produce. I have separate cutting boards that I always use for meat and produce. I know which knives I use for meat and which I use for produce too. That helps me from forgetting in the moment when I’m trying to hurriedly put dinner together so I don’t accidentally use the wrong knife to cut up a pepper.

A food thermometer is a must! Please, please, please make sure that your meat is cooked to the proper temperature. Food poisoning is no fun.

For those who love to disinfect here’s where it’s a good time to actually use that passion! Make sure to disinfect your cooking space before and after you’re making your meals. I know that when I lose a veggie over the side of a cutting board I’ll just pick it up and put it right back in the pile. So not only do I need a clean cutting board, but I need a clean countertop too. Just be careful what cleaners you’re using. Certain ones can obliterate the good and the bad. Limit your use of chlorine and try to go a more natural route with vinegar and lemon juice. Pinterest is full of helpful natural cleaning recipes.

The bathroom! Clean that beast up regularly. I don’t even want to get into the number of feces that ends up covering those surfaces and a toilet flush projects a lot more than you think it would. Also, make sure to keep all toothbrushes put away somewhere and not just in a cup on the sink. I know it’s hard, but that stuff is gross y’all.



 

I know this is the opposite message that my generation was brought up with. We are the generation of portable hand-sanitizer after all. But germs are good for you and if you want to help your body then step away from the hand-sanitizer and other beneficial bacteria killing foes. Embrace some of the ideas above. Science has come a long way and adapt we must!

If you liked this please share it! Meanwhile, stay tuned for more gut health articles to keep your microbiome happy and healthy!

 

 

 

*This is not medical advice*

 

germs

64 Comments

  1. March 10, 2018 / 6:54 pm

    Great post! I’ve been working really hard to restore my gut health after a bad reaction to a medication a few years ago caused me some major gut issues. I don’t think most people fully understand how important beneficial bacteria are to our health.

    Way back in my high school biology class we did an experiment testing the most efficient way to clean your hands. Scrubbing with plain old warm water actually did best. Antibacterial soap scored worst. It’s petri dishes grew all sorts of nasty bacteria, presumably because it killed off the good bacteria that fight off pathogens for us.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 10, 2018 / 7:17 pm

      It’s really difficult to restore good gut health, but it can be done. I had Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth from overuse of Prilosec and antibiotics, but I’m finally getting it to normalize.

      Standard antibacterial soap also creates germs that are resistant to being neutralized. Only hospitals have strong enough antibacterial soap that removes all the bacteria without creating resistance. Still not good, but better than resistant germs.

  2. Tyler
    March 12, 2018 / 1:31 am

    Woah, this was really insightful! Thanks so much for sharing. I had no idea we could be causing harm to ourselves that way.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 12, 2018 / 4:17 pm

      Thanks so much for giving it a read!

  3. March 12, 2018 / 4:57 pm

    Thorough article about germs. I can agree that taking probiotics are good for you. I took them for a while and I started feeling healthier.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 12, 2018 / 9:51 pm

      I’m so glad you had a positive experience with probiotics 🙂

  4. March 12, 2018 / 8:13 pm

    Oh, no, my 35 yr old son lives in my upstairs apartment because he is a special guy. He asks my advice on everything like 30 times a day and is very up tight about getting sick due to him being sick, because of his own illness, 3 or 4 days every other week. I have him using hand sanitizer every time he is near someone sick and every time he leaves any where that is public. I refer to the school as the germ factory. Opposite of what you say above. Guess you schooled me. I had better start looking this stuff up.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 12, 2018 / 9:51 pm

      It happens! So much information changes as we learn more and more about science. 20 years ago they thought that antibiotics were the solution to everything. Now they know that it does nothing for viruses. It’s a great time to be alive.

  5. March 12, 2018 / 9:20 pm

    That was really helpful especially for me! I’m going to be FTM and I still need to learn things. Now I won’t be freaking out if my baby drops her toys or pacifier on the ground. Lol

    http://www.vancitynbeyond.com

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 12, 2018 / 9:47 pm

      That’s great! I’m so glad I was able to help 🙂

  6. March 12, 2018 / 11:19 pm

    I recently found out that I have an auto-immune disease and I have severe damage to my gut. It is so important to have good bacteria to stay healthy.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 20, 2018 / 5:40 pm

      Best of luck to you! The Standard American Diet (SAD) leads to so many gut issues. We are missing a ton of bacteria in our microbiome we should have from sanitizing our environment and putting so much junk in our foods. I had Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and it took me a year to get rid of that dang thing. Diet changes can radically help with autoimmune issues.

  7. March 13, 2018 / 2:10 am

    I am pleased that three of us in my house attend public school. But just not those first few weeks back from break :).

    We have a pretty decent immunity over all and I credit our school environment for that!

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 6:22 am

      Yes! I went to college and stayed in the dorms. I got sick a couple times, but never after that. Even after leaving for summer break and coming back.

  8. March 13, 2018 / 2:45 am

    I have heard such amazing things about probiotics. Plus I firmly believe in germs being beneficial. I am the farthest thing from a germaphobe and I seriously believe that my kids are sick way less than my friends that bust out the hand sanitizer at every corner.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 6:21 am

      I completely agree. It’s like when I went away to college and stayed in the dorms. I got sick a couple times the first few months, but then my body adapted because my immune system got with the program.

  9. March 13, 2018 / 2:49 am

    I have the same feelings for caffeine, haha. I absolutely can not live without coffee, but I have to watch my intake now that I have hypertension. We take our daily dose of probiotics, though. There’s always bottles of Yakult in our fridge, a yogurt drink which is an excellent source of good bacteria.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 6:20 am

      I totally understand. I’m nutters fo kombucha!

  10. March 13, 2018 / 2:50 am

    This is fantastic, thank you for spreading awareness on the importance of good germs! Gut health is super important to maintain. I am trying to keep mine on track with probiotics.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 6:19 am

      Probiotics are always handy! You’re very welcome 🙂

  11. March 13, 2018 / 6:51 am

    This has some insightful information and is something to consider. I do believe in washing my hands pretty often. I always wipe down shopping carts (I’ll use sanitizing spray if wipes are unavailable). That’s one of the way e.coli spreads (especially when handling meats while shopping). I think there has to be balance.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 4:23 pm

      Hi Samantha, definitely some balance is needed. I agree with shopping carts being an issue. They actually test really high for fecal matter. It would be really nice if all grocery shops had carts go through the sanitary mists that some higher end stores do, but that would definitely impact product prices. When using disinfectant wipes it’s just super important to use the wipe only once. I’m amazed how many people will use the same wipe for multiple surfaces and just spread the germs around.

  12. March 13, 2018 / 10:11 am

    Appreciate this post – it’s informative and practical! As a mom with small children, I practice what you advised above. It’s important to keep bad germs sways, it’s also practical to not sterilize the environment for our babies – they’ve got to build up an immune system, after all, right? Great tips on separating cutting boards. 👍🏼 Thanks for adding value 💕

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 4:25 pm

      Thanks so much for reading. I’m glad it was helpful, Evelyn.

  13. Elizabeth O
    March 13, 2018 / 10:49 am

    This was such an interesting read. Good germs are definitely important. I learned a lot of new things here.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 4:17 pm

      Glad it was helpful, Elizabeth!

  14. March 13, 2018 / 12:17 pm

    What a great post! Yes, indeed germs are needed. It’s great to see someone sharing the facts.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 4:15 pm

      Thanks so much, Margaret! It’s so hard with all the different information floating around and of course, everyone wants to be a good parent so they worry a lot. I know I would with my first kid.

  15. March 13, 2018 / 12:35 pm

    Thanks for sharing! Probiotics are essential in my diet! I love how great they are for you!

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 4:14 pm

      I feel like they give me more energy and definitely help my digestion.

  16. Megan
    March 13, 2018 / 2:42 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! I agree, and I think a lot of people discount “good germs”. Great advice, too!

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 4:13 pm

      Thanks so much, Megan. I had to learn the hard way when I got issues after too many antibiotic protocols as a kid, but at least I can share it with everyone now!

  17. Shannon Sawicki
    March 13, 2018 / 3:14 pm

    I agree with this. When I first had my little one i wanted to protect him from all the germs. But having a 9 year old step son….I son realized this was impossible…and that whatever germs my little was exposed to would strengthen his immune system and he has been just fine. But we do follow a similar cutting board protocol, that is food safety.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 4:12 pm

      Yeah, there’s definitely a time and place for avoiding germs like with red meat. They’ve just gotten a bad rap overall, but the majority of germs are either neutral or beneficial. It’s just those pesky few you gotta watch out for.

  18. March 13, 2018 / 4:36 pm

    This is a really thorough and well thought out post and I have to admit that I’ve long thought that coming into contact with some germs isn’t bad for you – sometimes we can be a bit obsessed with being too clean!

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 5:23 pm

      Hi Kate

      I totally agree. I can’t think of anything that is healthy when it’s to the point that you’re obsessed. It’s all about balance 🙂

  19. March 13, 2018 / 5:03 pm

    I’ve been hatin’ on hand sanitizer for a while and actually get angry when I see my kids using it. That being said, I still use it if there’s no other way to wash my hands when I need to. And don’t even get me started on the whole over-prescribing of antibiotics thing. Geez! Prebiotics are beginning to be all the rage now, because they feed the good bacteria. I try to get a mix of pre- and pro-biotics, although I haven’t been as consistent as I should be! Will have to check out the probiotics that you’ve recommended.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 5:22 pm

      Yeah, I used to think that sanitizer would due if nothing else was around. After researching into it more and discovering it’s linked to creating resistant germs I’m avoiding it all together. I’ll be writing an article soon on prebiotics too. I find all gut health information so fascinating. Total nerd over here, haha.

  20. March 13, 2018 / 6:25 pm

    This is a very well written post! Totally open my eyes that germs is necessary and good for us. One thing we have in common is that I love kimchi too and it’s super good to take because its good for the gut. Thanks for making this post!

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 8:00 pm

      Thanks so much, Monica! Kimchi is delicious and there are so many different kinds!

  21. March 13, 2018 / 10:31 pm

    This is an awesome post,a great reminder and an eye opener.I remember reading about this in school years ago.
    Sometimes we can get carried away with trying to fight away the germs we forget some of the basics like using different cutting boards
    Great post dear

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 10:35 pm

      Thanks so much!

  22. March 14, 2018 / 12:12 am

    This is an interesting post… although there’s good germs for us I think I’ll continue to use paper towels for door handles lol.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 14, 2018 / 3:35 pm

      Hi Ashley,

      Fair enough! I definitely do in bathrooms.

  23. March 14, 2018 / 2:08 am

    I LOVE this post. I think too many people over use anti bacterial products trying to protect their children and potentially do more harm. I have never been one to wipe everything down before my kids touched it. I always thought a little dirt would never hurt anyone. They are very healthy girls with no allergies or asthma.

  24. March 14, 2018 / 10:19 am

    This is a very interesting article. I taught my kids to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice to banish those germs while we were washing our hands!

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 14, 2018 / 3:33 pm

      Yup! That’s what all the experts confirm work the best. I was just surprised that even lukewarm water with soap is more beneficial than antibacterial handwash!

  25. March 14, 2018 / 12:42 pm

    !!! Yes! It’s all about finding the right balance in your gut and maintaining good health that way. There is a very simple way to do this but few of us are ready to move into a fully plant-based diet. And also, allowing yuorself to come into contact with certain germs (even the bad kind) helps you build up a tolerance!

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 14, 2018 / 3:31 pm

      Hi Amy,

      It’s so much about balance and making small changes like adding probiotics and fermented foods into our diets. For me, a fully plant-based diet wasn’t in the cards. I got sick with an intestinal issue called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth a few years back and I’ve realized that including some meat is better for my personal body. My immune system and digestion have been so much better since I started eating for my microbiome and not avoiding every little germ.

  26. March 14, 2018 / 1:24 pm

    What an interesting post. Are germs good for you? I think this post is a real eye opener for me. Probiotics are essential in my diet 🙂

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 14, 2018 / 3:32 pm

      Hi Sue,

      Thanks so much! I’ve had wonderful results with probiotics. I’m so glad that you’ve found them helpful!

  27. March 14, 2018 / 5:04 pm

    I try to explain this to people all the time! You can’t kill of all the bacteria! I’ve had health issues in the past from being overprescribed antibiotics and them killing off all my good bacteria. 🙁 Probiotics are your friend!

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 14, 2018 / 5:43 pm

      Hi Candice,

      Same here. It’s so hard to explain to people, but I would hate for them to go through the same issues I went through. They were terrible!

  28. March 14, 2018 / 10:01 pm

    THANK YOU for posting this! I’m always trying to explain to people the benefit of germs, and how we need them to boost our immune systems. I’m going to just start referring them all to your article! Haha 🙂

  29. March 15, 2018 / 4:11 pm

    Your article is so insightful and complete, definitely a must-read for everyone! I have had a long story with germs. When I was in my home country germs wasn’t a thing. In fact, the most popular tradition in Argentina is drinking Mate in every reunion, and everyone knows there is only ONE mate, that one person refills and pass to the next, that’s the way it is, completely normal. Then I came to Europe. People were shocked of my cultural heritage!! They don’t share stuff, that is personal and they don’t drink from the same recipient someone else has drunk unless they wash it first.
    After a few years living here, my mother-in-law got leukaemia. Her treatment resulted in killing completely her immune system and waiting for a donor. Then I had to learn about germs and how to avoid them, have the maximum care for her no to get any kind of contact with germs that for us meant nothing but for her could’ve meant death.
    She battled the illness 3 years and sadly passed. Meanwhile, I got really obsessed with all the germs stuff, and for a long while I couldn’t get rid of all those habits of exaggerated sanitation! It’s so incredible how a hard life experience can change your mind and customs completely!!
    Now I’m more relaxed. I vaccinate my children but I don’t use any kind of hand sanitizers. I don’t disinfect anything and I don’t sterilize anything!

  30. March 15, 2018 / 9:36 pm

    This is such an amazing post. I am glad to know in-depth about the good germs. Gut health is super important to maintain. In my daily life, I do believe in good germs and not a sanitizer freak, same for my kids, I let them get dirty, play outside, to help them build their immune system. You are doing a great job spreading awareness on the importance of good germs.

  31. Journa Ramirez
    March 19, 2018 / 10:47 am

    This is something that everyone needs to read. I was a freak when it comes to germs back then, but as years go by, I’ve learned these things!

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 19, 2018 / 1:12 pm

      Hi Journa,

      Yeah, I was never a clean freak about things, but I definitely didn’t know how important having germs in your surroundings are and how what we do to prevent germs actually hurts us in the long run. I’m overhauling all my cleaning products so they’re more natural too.

  32. March 23, 2018 / 5:15 pm

    When I was young, I use to hear the saying that goes, you get by even when expose to germs… And people who are exposed to germs from young tend to be more immune to them in long run… But nowadays,. more and more people are developing allergies because of the exposure to germs~

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      March 23, 2018 / 9:28 pm

      Exactly, Tiffany!

  33. April 21, 2018 / 7:31 am

    this is just awesome .this germ are useful to use.. In my daily life, I do believe in good germs and not a sanitizer freak, same for my kids, I let them get dirty, play outside, to help them build their immune system. i have also a tooth brush sanitizer.you can buy it.i will buy Best tooth brush sanitizer.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      April 21, 2018 / 5:58 pm

      I love that you let them get out there and play like kids. Keep being awesome, Alex!

  34. April 26, 2018 / 2:37 pm

    So true – toliet flushing and tooth brushes are gross! Shoes in house are also gross. Did you see that recent post about the feces and hand dryers? YUCK!

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      April 27, 2018 / 1:51 am

      Hi Susan,

      I have now! That’s a hardcore gross. Ew!

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