Four Ways Bacteria Can Be Helpful to Humans


Many people may have negative connotations come to mind when they think of bacteria. However, not all bacteria is harmful to humans. Some bacteria aids digestion, makes certain foods, battles infection and strengthens the body.

E. Coli Escherichia coli, or E. coli, is a bacteria that lives naturally in the intestines of humans and other animals. It is frequently given a bad name as a result of bad strains that infect food and cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, dehydration and kidney failure in severe cases. E. coli is not just a bacteria that can be harmful to humans though. It is also very helpful to humans by helping their bodies break down and digest food. In some cases, E. coli has been seen to kill salmonella, which thrives off of iron. E. coli is more efficient at absorbing iron, so it takes it away from the salmonella so it can no longer live.

Probiotics Probiotics include yeasts and live bacteria that live in the guts of humans and help to keep their digestive systems healthy and functioning at their optimum. These good, or healthy, bacteria can be found in certain foods or taken in the form of supplements and drinks. One of the most common probiotics that are taken in the form of a supplement is acidophilus. Probiotics have been seen to improve digestion in humans by affecting the nerves in your gut that control the movement of food. They also have other benefits like boosting the immune system, reduce cholesterol and prevent certain infections.

Fermented Foods Fermented foods are created in a controlled atmosphere, such as a pot or jar, where bacteria that is beneficial to humans replace bacteria that can be harmful. The bacteria expel carbon dioxide, which kills oxygen in the controlled environment, as well as lactic acid. After some time, potentially harmful bacteria cannot live in the oxygen-depleted acidic environment that is created and they die, being replaced by the helpful bacteria. These bacteria not only prevent foods from spoiling and make them healthy for humans instead, but they also turn into probiotics in the gut, further helping people to remain healthy. Fermented foods tend to have a tangy or acidic taste due to the process they undergo. Some examples of fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kombucha, kefir, miso and raw cheeses.

Antibiotics Although the nomenclature can be confusing, antibiotics are also made of bacteria, molds and fungi. They are also created to rid the body of harmful bacteria that cause illness. Since antibiotics are essentially made of the same components of an invading bacteria to a body, they are able to attack bacterial cells rather than human cells. Bacterial cells include a cell wall, while human cells do not, so antibiotics can essentially fight fire with fire and attack similar cells. The antibiotics break the cell walls of the invading bacteria, and the bacterial cells break because there isn’t anything to protect them, which eradicates the infection. Unfortunately, antibiotics tend to attack all different types of bacteria in the body, even helpful bacteria. The effects of antibiotics on healthy bacteria can be countered by eating a diet rich in fermented foods or taking a probiotic supplement.