This fact gets me every time. For every human cell that makes up your body, there are 10 cells of bacteria living on your body. Here’s another one – there are are more bacteria in your intestine then there are people on earth. So in sum: your body is just plain full of bacteria.
Many foods are created by purposefully adding bacteria. Some examples: common snacks like yogurt, certain cheeses, sourdough bread and some pickles – and increasingly popular foods like Kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut, kefir and miso. More and more research supports the benefits of these “good bacteria”-rich foods and says they help aid digestion.
Some bad bacteria are annoying but relatively harmless – like the bacteria that cause pimples or the ones that make your breath bad. And then some bacteria are very bad – like bacteria that cause infections and bacterial contagions that can be fatal. Luckily, of all the bacteria out there, less than 1 percent will actually make you sick.
The large majority of the bacteria living with you are actually good. They co-exist with your body and even help fight off bad bacteria. And then there are also some bacteria that are really good. These bacteria work with your body to help you function – without these bacteria, you wouldn’t work.
Bacteria in our guts help us digest our food, and now, scientists say our microbial diversity might also cause or prevent obesity. They hope that by studying human bacteria in the guts of mice, science will one day be able to figure out how our bacteria can keep us slim.
Everything from asthma, allergies, certain types of diabetes, upset stomachs and a bunch of other auto-immune diseases have all been linked to a lack of bacterial biodiversity.
The thing that excites scientists the most about all their new studies and research is that bacteria can be changed – and they can be changed fast. You can’t change your genes. Meaning, if you have a genetic disease, your DNA is stuck with that disease and you have to take drugs to fix it. But the genetic makeup of your bacteria can be altered. So, if you have a disease caused by bacteria, you could theoretically alter your bacteria’s DNA by changing up the bacterial diversity in your body. This shake-up would rid you of the disease entirely. And now that science is showing a lot more diseases are caused by bacteria than previously thought, this new way of thinking might help save and improve millions of lives.
Bacteria can live in some of the harshest conditions you could possibly imagine. In the deepest ends of the ocean and the highest tops of the mountains? Check. Buried in rock and floating in the air? Check again. Living off radioactive waste or in near-boiling water? Yup. Heck, Martian bacteria have even survived a meteor ride from space. Bacteria are crazy tough.
They were around before the Dinosaurs. So yeah – they’re that kinda old. Researchers claim to have found bacteria from more than 3 and a half billion years ago, and they say the particles will be here on Earth long after the human race is gone.
Bacteria ferment the beans that end up making chocolate and coffee, and they help make vinegar. They’re used in mining to eat through rock. They can repair concrete and create other building materials. They can even be made into a sustainable packaging material. They can detect pollution and find land mines. They clean up oil spills and nuclear waste. They can be used in pest control and maybe, someday soon, as energy for batteries.