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What Are Microbes And Their Role In Our Health

Featured | Scientist with a petri dish | What Are Microbes And Their Role In Our Health
What are microbes? Are they the body’s unsung heroes?

RELATED: New In Gut Health: The Essential Role of Fungus Among Us

In this article:

  1. What Are Microbes?
  2. Where Are Microbes Living in My Body?
  3. When Did Humans Discover Microbes?
  4. Who Benefits From Microbes?
  5. How Are Good and Bad Microbes Different?
  6. Why Should I Encourage Gut Microbes?

What Are Microbes Good For? This and Other Questions Answered

What Are Microbes?

Scientist conducting research looking through microscope | What Are Microbes And Their Role In Our Health
A scientist looking into a microscope in a lab

Microbes are the little microorganisms that humans can’t see unless using a microscope. They live in every place on the planet, including the human body.

A microbe is an umbrella term that covers a broad range of living organisms. These include viruses, protists, archaea, fungi, and bacteria.

Microbes might be the earliest life forms on the planet. Like humans, they have continually evolved, and have come to maintain a good working relationship with us.

Places on the body where you can find microbes are your skin, mouth, nose, and gut, and they live in different communities called microbiomes. In the human body, microbiomes are essential for health, metabolism, and immunity.

Where Are Microbes Living in My Body?

1. Skin

The skin is the human body’s largest organ. It is the body’s point of contact with the outside world and is responsible for functions like regulating body temperature and blocking viruses.

There is a diverse population of microbes that live on the skin surface. One of them is the helpful bacteria Bacillus subtilis.

Bacillus subtilis is famous for producing bacitracin, which is a toxin that helps fight off the bad microbes. Its antibacterial properties have made it a popular ingredient in many commercial antibiotics.

2. Nasal Cavity

Microbes live deep inside your nose and are helpful in determining how your immune system reacts to incoming diseases. Some studies even show that a strain of bacteria in the nasal cavity (S. lugdunensis) has the ability to kill S. aureus strains by producing an antibacterial compound called lugdunin.

S. aureus bacteria, or Staphylococcus aureus, is a particularly dangerous strain. It causes mild skin infections but is deadly when it infects humans with a weak immune system.

3. Oral Cavity

Dentist performing a dental procedure on a patient | What Are Microbes And Their Role In Our Health
A dentist performing a dental procedure on a patient

The oral cavity, or the inside of your mouth, is a thriving ecosystem of microbes. They live on the teeth, tongue, soft palate, lips, cheeks, and hard palate.

Microbes living in the mouth are called the oral microbiome and contain over 600 species. Some of them include actinobacteria, chlamydiae, Proteobacteria, and euryarchaeota, among others.

4. Digestive Tract

The digestive tract, or the human gut, functions primarily for nutrition as well as self-defense. It’s responsible for digesting the food we eat, excreting waste, and sheltering a vast population of friendly microbes.

Gut microbes start settling into the digestive tract as soon as humans are born. More and more diverse types of bacteria enter and proliferate in the gut as we age, by way of the food we eat.

The more diverse the gut flora is, the better for our bodies. Several good bacteria serve different benefits for our body, including metabolism regulation, fiber digestion, and even immunity training.

RELATED: Upset Stomach? How Stress Impacts Your Gut Health

When Did Humans Discover Microbes?

The idea of living creatures so small they’re unseen by the naked eye can be a concept difficult to grasp. But humans in ancient times may have had some idea of microbes, which culminated upon the discovery of the compound microscope in the 17th century.

From the time when microbes were finally visible, scientific advances were made. One notable development was the refinement of the pasteurization process, which was discovered by Louis Pasteur in the 1800s.

The scientific findings of Louis Pasteur led to a greater comprehension of germs, fermentation, and disease. These findings would eventually lead to the study of microbiology.

Microbiology brought about a more detailed process of looking at microbes. This paved the way towards the development of antibiotics, fermentation, and sanitation, which has been instrumental in preserving the human race.

Who Benefits From Microbes?

Woman eating salad | What Are Microbes And Their Role In Our Health
A woman smiles while eating a salad.

While it’s true that some bacteria harm us, there are also some bacteria that have an opposite and beneficial effect. For starters, it’s microbes that are responsible for breaking down waste and dead organisms, resulting in recycled waste that feeds and nourishes the earth.

Due to their minute size, microbes are at the very bottom of the food chain but are essential in the great cycle of life. Microbiomes present in our guts help digest fibers and carbohydrates for us to be able to access important nutrients we need to stay healthy.

In short, each and every one of us, plants, insects, animals, entire ecosystems, and the Earth itself can and continues to benefit from the humble little microbe.

How Are Good and Bad Microbes Different?

The assumption about bacteria is often that it’s bad and it can cause diseases. But the reality is most bacteria are actually beneficial, and only a handful of bacteria is bad.

Bad bacteria, also called pathogenic bacteria, are what’s responsible for conditions like food poisoning, or toothaches. Most of them are harbingers for food-borne illnesses that can even be fatal for those whose immune systems are vulnerable, like children, pregnant women, and those who are malnourished.

Good bacteria are present in foods, particularly those that undergo fermentation. Because of this, they settle and propagate in the digestive tract.

Initially, foods are fermented for prolonged storage or to improve texture and flavor. But it appears that fermentation has even more benefits than our ancestors previously believed.

Why Should I Encourage Gut Microbes?

Happy young female runner jogging outdoors | What Are Microbes And Their Role In Our Health
A woman smiles while running outside.

Beneficial gut microbiomes can help keep us healthy and safe by edging out its bad relatives before they can cause disease. But just because you have a healthy diversity of gut flora doesn’t mean you’re completely free of bad bacteria.

Bad bacteria like Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus, otherwise known as the dreaded E. coli and Staph respectively, both live in all humans. But most of the time they lay dormant, until an imbalance in the body lets them leap into action.

You can keep the bad bacteria down by eating up foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics. Taking a supplement is also a good option, as it may not be possible to gorge on certain foods consistently.

What Are Gut Microbes? These are microorganisms that live in the human digestive system. They form colonies called microbiomes and when in the right balance can be beneficial to human health.

 

Learn how BIOHM works from BIOHM Health:

Microbes should not be synonymous with disease or danger. They were the first to harbor signs of life on Earth, and have continually helped bigger organisms to flourish.

As with all things, the right balance of microbes is ideal in maintaining an ecosystem, whether in nature or in the human body. Supplements like BIOHM probiotics can help keep your gut flora well-balanced with up to 30 billion active cultures.

What’s the craziest thing you used to do to clear away bacteria? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below!

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