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The Difference Between Good Bacteria and Bad Bacteria

“Good” bacteria, also known as beneficial bacteria, are defined as any bacteria that are beneficial to the body and enhance health. One of the most well known types of good bacteria are probiotics. Actually, most bacteria are “good.”

Good bacteria - Humm Kombucha

Comparatively speaking, there are only a handful of “bad” bacteria out there. Of the total bacteria in our bodies, a healthy balance is 85% good bacteria and 15% bad bacteria.  Remarkably, scientists estimate that only 1-10% of total bacteria have even been discovered.

Bacteria can survive in the harshest conditions and they are everywhere; throughout our environment, on our skin, in our mouth and in our gut.

Around 100 trillion good bacteria live in and on our bodies. Many of these bacteria reside in our gut, helping our body break down food and absorb nutrients.  Not only do we live in harmony with these good bacteria, but they are essential to our survival.

Better Gut Health is Vital for Immunity and Digestion

Bacteria in our gut help to protect us by crowding out some of their dangerous relatives that can cause disease. Other good bacteria have been used in medicine to create antibiotics, and others still are used in food production to make fermented foods (think sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi and kombucha.)

GOOD BACTERIA

One thing to note about kombucha is that the pH is well below the level bad bacteria can survive in. For example, Botulism (and other pathogenic bacteria) cannot grow in an environment where the pH is below 4.6. The average pH of kombucha is around 3.0 – some slightly higher and some slightly lower, but not above 4.0.

However, even though you may eat fermented foods, take extra probiotics and keep your gut extra healthy, it is still possible for bad bacteria to multiply. Bacteria, while being extremely hearty, are also naturally very opportunistic.  

Bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E coli) or Staphylococcus (staph) have a “bad” bacteria reputation, but we live with these bacteria every day in our gut and on our skin.  That’s the thing, not all bacteria are either inherently bad or good. When our body is out of balance, the bad bacteria take advantage of the opportunity and proliferate, potentially causing harm to our bodies.

We all have bad bacteria too  

“Bad” bacteria are traditionally defined as pathogenic bacteria, which means they may cause infection, make us sick or, in some cases, even kill us!  Bad bacteria come from external influences such as food, environmental toxins and even the effects of stress on our bodies.  Sometimes a disturbance in the force, or an imbalance in the homeostasis of our bodies, will turn a healthy gut microbe into a colony of very unfriendly bacteria inside our bodies.

When our body is stressed, it creates an environment in which the bacteria that were once good or “dormant,” can multiply and wreak havoc in our system.   Too many antibiotics, antibacterial soap, food that isn’t prepared properly, excess sugar, stress and lack of sleep are some things that can cause an imbalanced body.

5 Ways to Keep Bad Bacteria at Bay

Star Wars: The Force Awakens as performed by Humm Kombucha

Even the healthiest of bodies do battle with pathogens from time to time. Here are proven strategies to decrease the chances of attack and allow the good bacteria to proliferate.

  1. Sleep.  As simple as it sounds, one of the best things you can do to keep your body in balance is grab your eight hours of ZZZs.
  2. Fuel your body well.  Eat foods rich in vitamins and nutrients such as whole grains, fruits and veggies.  This includes stocking up at farmers’ markets and eating food as close to the source as possible.
  3. Become a label reader – if there are words you cannot pronounce on any food packaging, or there are more than a few ingredients listed, it’s likely not high on the “best foods” list.
  4. Consider upping your probiotic intake, whether from fermented foods (like kombucha, kefir or kimchi) or a super-dose in capsule or powder form (super easy to use probiotics in smoothies.)
  5. Finally, ask your body to heal.  As hokey as this may sound, there is scientific evidence to prove what we’ve inherently known (and often forgotten) when it comes to the power of intention.  Have you ever experienced a time in your life where you had so much on your plate you didn’t take time to even breathe? Then suddenly (and seemingly inexplicably) when that last event of the series happened or you checked off the last big project on your list, you got sick? It’s as if you were too busy to be sick before then and once you slowed down, your body did too. This is not uncommon. You may have even verbalized it, “Don’t get sick now!”

Try meditating on this: ask your body to heal, and take the time to say “thank you.”  Thank your body for being healthy – even if it’s just the small things, because if you can simply say or think “thank you,” you have a lot to be grateful for. 🙂

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