90% of the Cells in our Bodies are Bacteria: How Knowing This can Benefit our Health

We have all heard of germs or bacteria which can cause disease and it's common to hear people say things like, “I caught the cold”. Statements like these are examples of people referring to their exposure to pathogenic bacteria or viruses which have made them sick. Because of this, many people have a negative view of microorganisms in general. In reality there are many types of bacteria in our world, and more importantly in our bodies, which are actually very beneficial to our health. This is important to recognize because chemicals, antibacterial products and antibiotics, which can kill the trillions of friendly bacteria calling our bodies home, have become widely used in our society. These products should be avoided if possible and instead we can work to restore the balance of healthy bacteria in our bodies by taking probiotics supplements and by consuming more cultured foods.

Why We’re Less Than 10% Human.

Our bodies are composed of around 10 trillion human cells. That’s a lot! What some people do not realize is that our bodies are host to around 100 trillion bacterial cells. That means that less than 10% of the organisms inside our bodies are human cells! [1] These bacteria are much smaller than human cells, so bacteria actually only account for between 1% and 3% of our physical mass. [2] Of our 10 trillion human cells, we have identified between 20,000 and 25,000 different genes. [3] Of the 100 trillion different bacteria in our bodies we have discovered over three million different genes. So in terms of DNA, we are less than 1% human! [4]

Why Certain Bacteria are Beneficial for our Health.

Knowing this, it would be foolish to assume that all bacteria are bad. On the contrary, bacteria play a major role in maintaining our health. There are bacteria that help to digest food and there are bacteria which assist in the absorption of nutrients. There are even bacteria which actually attack potentially harmful pathogens from the environment which could make us sick. All of these bacteria are non-human, meaning that they have their own DNA, and as a result are not under the direct control of the human body. This means that the brain can’t directly signal these bacterias and tell them to do something, like it can with white blood cells for example. [5]

Factors Determining Which Bacteria Live Inside our Bodies.

It is as if there are whole cultures of foreigners living inside our bodies, some friendly and some not so friendly, who are making their own rules and acting as they please! The types of bacteria living inside our bodies are determined by a number of different factors coming from the environment. The most obvious of these factors are the foods and drinks that we consume. Eating lots of carbohydrates and sugars for example lead to sugar eating bacteria, since carbohydrates and sugars are both converted into glucose (sugar) once inside the body. Typically these types of bacteria generate more cellular waste and overall create conditions in the body which decrease our health.  Some of the other environmental factors determining our “microbiome” could be surprising to many people including stress, the air that we breathe and our emotional state.

Releasing our Fear of Germs and the Victim Mentality.

When I was a child my mother would always tell my sister and I to wash our hands to “kill the germs”. I remember being afraid of germs and I imagined them as these tiny monsters just waiting to make me sick. I remember feeling powerless against these microscopic invaders. As a result of this fear I can remember having anxious thoughts about getting sick. My fear of germs had created a victim mentality around my own health. Now that I have a broadened understanding of how disease functions in the body, all of these types of fears have fallen away and I have been able to release this victim mentality. By cultivating a healthy internal environment characterized by friendly bacteria, we are greatly decreasing the risk of becoming ill as a result of pathogenic bacteria and viruses. This knowledge empowers us to take responsibility for our own health and wellbeing.

How We can Cultivate Bacteria Which Promote our Health.

Here is the major takeaway from this article. We live in a society obsessed with antibacterial products from soaps to antibiotics. What some people are not aware of is the harmful effects these antibacterial products can have on the natural ecosystem of microorganisms living inside our bodies and even on our skin! What makes more sense, using a product which can potentially kill 90% of the living organisms inside our bodies, or using a product such as a probiotic supplement, which actually supports the growth of the organisms which are helping us to live, stay healthy and function in this world.

Probiotics ares substances which promote the growth of friendly bacteria and are becoming very common on the shelves of many health food stores. We can also receive probiotics from natural sources such as sauerkraut, yogurt and cultured vegetables. Adding probiotics to our diet is taking a huge step to restoring the natural balance inside our bodies, a balance which has been thrown out of whack for many people by pesticides, antibiotics and other antibacterial products. Imagine our bodies are like a country and bacteria are the citizens of the country. Consuming anti-bacterial products is like a country bombing it’s own citizens! Instead we could be taking probiotics which would be like a country building schools to educate its youth, providing free healthcare for its people and protecting its citizens from threats.


  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16497592
  2. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-human-microbiome-project-defines-normal-bacterial-makeup-body
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15496913
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16741115
  5. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11652771-clean-gut