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Julie Wilkinson, BSN, RN

Germs: Love 'Em or Leave 'Em?

By January 28, 2013

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Not all germs pose a threat to your body. Indeed, some germs are actually friendly and have positive benefits. Before I go much further, let me explain that the proper name is actually "microbe" not "germ". The friendly microbes help your body keep the nasty ones in check by not allowing them to grow in abundance. For instance - every one of us has yeast on our skin and inside our colon. Left unchecked, that yeast can take over and cause nasty effects such as thrush, vaginal yeast infections, and even diarrhea and cramps.

So have I piqued your interest to know what, exactly, is living in your colon (or on your skin)? The Earth Microbiome Project is exploring that question and many more as you read this. This international study aims to gather data from across the world and use that data for the good of all mankind - not sell or barter it for some copyrighted technology.

If you want to get involved, you can do so through the American Gut campaign. Although you can get as many test kits as you want (if you're willing to pay for them), $99 gets you started with one test kit and instructions. You're responsible for collecting your specimen (yes, we're talking about stool here), packaging it per the test kit instructions, and paying the postage to return it. Just by looking at your stool sample, the scientists can tell exactly what kinds of microbes (and how many) are hiding in your intestines.

Wouldn't it be interesting to know what microbes inhabit the colon of a vegan? Someone who eats ground beef six times weekly? An athlete? The fact is, we really don't know as much about this part of our inner ecosystem as we should.

According to the American Gut Website, there are literally days left until the registration for this project is closed, so hurry over there if you're interested in learning "What's in your gut" as their campaign slogan goes.

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