|Ever since the medical profession discovered we can prevent disease and infection simply by washing our hands, we've had a "germ phobia" in this country. In recent years, this phobia has turned into a mania, much like the bogus "cholesterol phobia." But germs aren't all bad. In fact, researchers are now asking, "Is it possible that skin germs are good for us?" Their research on mice suggests the answer is yes.
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Researchers took two groups of mice. They bred one group to have no normally occurring microbes on their skin. They bred the second group to have the normal skin flora. They then infected the groups with Leishmaia parasites. Those mice without normal germs could not mount an immune response.
Now it gets better. The scientists introduced staph epidermidis (normal skin microbe) to the bacteria-free mice. Amazingly, their immune systems became much more effective at fighting the parasites.
This report tells us the microbes on our skin, like good microbes in our gut, are most helpful in maturing our immune systems. Justin Sonnenburg, is an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He said, "There is a huge paradigm shift happening. We're realizing that we as organisms are not just human cells, we are human and microbial cells put together. And microbial cells are a really important factor in dictating autoimmune response, infection response, metabolism and even potentially aspects of behavior. The list goes on and on for many, many facets of our biology."
This elegant study tells us that microbes are important to us. I've written extensively about microbes in your gut — and will have more in a future issue. In short, there are at least 10 times as many microbes in our bodies as human cells. For that matter, there's far more bacterial DNA in us than our own. There is a natural symbiosis.
Modern medicine has not, until recently, thought of us as an ecosystem like a rain forest. It can help to think of our body this way. Consider this: If you down the rain forest, or put in plants that don't belong there, you destroy the land. The forest protected the land. Wipe out your body's "forest" and you may similarly damage your immune system and the "land" of your body.
The microbe madness has spread to soaps, which compound the problem with toxic chemicals to wipe out your normal skin flora. Please don't allow the chemical industry to lure you into chemical laden soaps to wipe out what is normally on your skin. I am all in favor of staying clean. But not with artificial man-made chemicals to derange the "forest" God designed for our body parts. Use normal soap to wash your hands, not antibacterial soaps.
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