The Truth About Bacteria

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Bacteria are everywhere. Trillions of these microscopic, single-celled organisms make their home on your body and inside it. Should you be alarmed? Hardly, here's the truth about bacteria.

Aren't most bacteria disease-spreading germs? Nope, just a fraction of them are bad guys, like some strep and E. Coli. On the flip side, many other kinds help your body work properly. For example, some gut bacteria help you digest food, make vitamins, and fight off infections. They may even have some influence over your mind, including which foods you crave.

Can hand sanitizer help you fight off germy types of bacteria? Yes, but you have to use one that has at least 60% alcohol and plenty of it. Your best defense against germs? It's still good, old soap and water.

Do the probiotics in some foods have health benefits? Maybe, some studies show promise, but scientists need to do more research. Probiotics are live microorganisms that include bacteria and are in foods like yogurt and sauerkraut. They may help prevent diarrhea and ease symptoms of IBS, but experts don't yet know which ones help or how much you should take. And that's the dirt on bacteria.