“We Need to Stop Sanitizing Everything and Let Bacteria Back into Our Lives,” Biologist Says

We all like clean homes and facilities, but do we overdo it, well, the leading biologist, Dr. Jack Gilbert states that we do, and by doing so we are making more harm than good. He realized this when he started to study the dolphins discovering that the dirtier their aquarium get, the healthier the dolphins became. This lead to the conclusion that there are many benefits of having a microbial diversity in our homes.

Moreover, he promotes making hospitals dirty again, stating that sterilizing our microbial ecosystems has caused great damage. In 2014, he was studying dolphins, when he realized that the “dirtier” the aquarium water was, the healthier the dolphins were. For Dr. Jack Gilbert this was huge breakthrough changing his view of bacteria and other microbes. People are so afraid of them that have started to sterilize everything, when in fact we need them to make our bodies more resistant to illnesses.

Dr. Gilbert stated to the New York Post: “We saw the benefit in increasing the microbial diversity of the home”

Nowadays, modern medicine is facing the existence of super bugs and infection-causing viruses that are drug-resistant. Regarding this issue Dr. Jack Gilbert, an associate director of the Institute for Genomic and Systems Biology at Argonne National Laboratory, claims that the lack of a rich microbial ecosystem in hospitals caused the occurrence of these super bugs and viruses.

Gilbert quotes phrases of Ed Yong’s book “I Contain Multitudes”:

“There are more bacteria in your gut than there are stars in our galaxy … and of these fewer than 100 species of bacteria compromise our health.”

According to Gilbert we need more diversity of micro-organisms, not sterility. There is an abundance of beneficial species that co-exist harmoniously in our body and help us maintain homeostasis. However, as a result of the overuse of antibiotics and anti-bacterial cleaners the healthy balance of protective microbes in our bodies and larger environments is significantly disturbed making us more prone to diseases.

Microbes are not visible to our eyes, but they are there, and have an important role in our environment. Yong states in his book:

“Microbes have spent 90 percent more time on Earth than we have, invisibly evolving for millions of years. Instead of evolving alongside them, we joined forces with them in what scientists call co-development. We cannot live without the microbes we host.”

Although we are trying to destroy them we cannot live without them as we are them. Fascinating, but true, over 99% of the genetic material in our bodies is bacterial, states the founder of the American Gut Project, Rob Knight.

Microbes are the foundation of our immune system protecting our body from the viral diseases that enter our system. In addition to this, they replace dying and damaged cells, help our bodies to absorb and store nutrients and fat. The gut is packed with bacteria, and the gut flora digests our food and regulates our moods and behavior.  The presence of microbes shapes our organs, and keeps us from the intruders in our body.

Knight states that they determine which painkillers are toxic to our liver, which drugs will be efficient for our heart, how often we get bitten by mosquitoes, and even determine our sexual attraction.

Another evidence of the benefits of the microbes is the cure for C. diff, a bacterium accountable for the occurrence of diarrhea and colitis. This bacterium is commonly found in the toilet, and because of that researchers decided to use fecal transplants in the treatment of C. diff.  A healthy donor stool was placed inside the gastrointestinal tract of C. diff sufferers, and thus the healthy balance of bacteria in the gut was regained. As a result of these positive results, this bacterium now it comes in a form of pill.

Here it is an extract from an article about the benefits of the microbes, published in the New York Post:

“In 2008, a group of villagers believed to have spent 11,000 years in isolation, were spotted in a remote part of the Amazon rainforest. Scientists discovered that thousands of years of seclusion had left them with the most diverse microbiomes they had ever seen. They concluded their microbial diversity was further proof that the battles waged against germs in the industrialized world had worked a little too well. Those of us living in modern cities, towns and villages had destroyed so much of the healthy microscopic life that belonged in our bodies; it had rendered our own microbiomes comparatively deficient.”

We are obsessed of constantly having clean hands when in fact the microbes on them can help us in protecting the body from diseases. In the past, maybe even now, the hunter-gatherers were washing their hands in the microbe-rich guts of dead animals, and for the right reasons. Well, we should not go to that extreme, but we should not be overstressed of dirtiness anymore, as it seems we need it.