6 Objective Reasons Why Your Fear of Bacteria Is Irrational
Everyone has heard about that guy who had the bacterial infection that ate away his face. He had to wear the plastic mask with the fake eyes, but you shouldn't let that scare you away from bacteria. We have hand sanitizers in every public bathroom and anti-bacterial soap to make us feel more secure at home. Hand gels, sanitary wipes, sprays, foams, lotions, and cleaning supplies that boast "kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria." But while there's nothing wrong with the desire to be clean, we're probably being a little too paranoid about our creepy-crawly little friends, because we tend to forget that ...
We're Already Covered in the Stuff, and It Might Be Good for Us
"But I don't want bacteria living and crawling on my skin! I'm very important," you scream into the sky while angrily punching the air. Well, you might want to conserve your air-punching arm strength because there already are lots of bacteria on you at all times, and the majority of it hasn't even been classified. More importantly, we don't know what all the different types might be capable of -- what if bacteria is meant to be a part of us?
Well, that was answered by a group of MIT microbiologists who use bacteria to clean themselves. One of the dudes saw a horse go sniffing around in the dirt and then roll in a certain spot. While most of us would just giggle and nickname it "Stupid Flop-Horse," he wondered if maybe it had some primitive ability to smell bacteria that feeds on the ammonia that is in sweat. And he was right.
Now to work on that shit smell.
He developed a culture called "AO+" and started misting himself with it ... and he hasn't showered in over 12 years. By just rinsing his body with water every couple of days and then misting himself, this culture of bacteria has protected him from smelling like a filthy troglodyte. It eats his sweat. His skin is softer. The natural oils return. Acne is no longer a concern. And bacteria was the wonder cure. Think of how much time you waste showering, going to the store, and buying soap and shampoo, when you could just go roll in some dirt and take it easy.
Hehehe. Stupid Flop-Horse.
We're Already Disgusting Anyway
You are disgusting. We can't always see it, but we know you're gross. You have to blow your nose, and feces comes out of your body. You're constantly going into a private room and pouring liquid out of your Funkytown region. If you're lucky, you then rub that region on someone else's for pleasure.
There are giant companies that got rich purely by developing the best stick-and-cotton combo just to dig all the gross stuff out of your ears. Zits show up on your face, and you massage their filthy insides out of your skin. Dead matter is constantly growing out of your fingers and toes, and you have to trim it off every couple of weeks. You might try to polish or paint it, but we know what it is. It's just more grossness growing on you, in you, and out of you.
See you in a few weeks, clippers, where I'm sure to spend an hour trying to find you again.
It's just endless: the dandruff on your head, the dirt under your toes, and the sweat stains on your shirt. You're not just filthy; you are filth. And even then, as gross as you are, you're still afraid of bacteria -- something we can't see nearly as well as the leftover Chipotle in your teeth. We can't escape it because ...
There's Way More of It Around Than You Realize
The biomass of bacteria is larger than all the plants and animals on the planet. We try to have it removed from the premises of our bodies. We shower and rinse ourselves with chemicals, rub our hands in anti-bacterial gel as if that bacteria might ruin an otherwise pristine surface. But no surface is devoid of bacteria. It's nearly impossible. Doing so would be like trying to remove all of the stars from the universe, or all of the sex references from Prince's song library.
According to the link above, there are approximately 50 million bacterial organisms in a single gram of typical surface soil. A gram of Earth! Your body is much bigger than a gram, no matter how much you work out. Imagine how many of them must be on us at all times. We are walking games of an organic SimCity, except in our case, the pollution comes in the form of tiny, tiny poop.
If that advisor tells me I need more roads again, I'm dropping a tornado on this whole goddamn city.
No one really knows how many bacterial organisms there are. The best approximation scientists can give is 5 million trillion trillion, or 5 nonillion, if you trust that's a word I'm not making up. Five million trillion trillion is a little kid number. They're constantly expanding, and nothing you can do is going to get rid of them. This is their planet, and we happen to be standing on it. We should all immediately apologize to bacteria for invading their domain.
Our Methods for Eradicating It Are Horrible
In an attempt to eradicate bacteria, someone's real job is to lather up an animal and see if it lives. "Well, this sample stripped away not only all the fur, but also the skin from this bunny." Then after modifying and retrying several of those, we hopefully land on: "Sounds like this sample is ready for a sexy commercial showing some model tossing her hair around. We've found the right chemical mixture!"
Almost all current shampoos have sodium lauryl sulphate in them, which strips away all bacteria and has the added side effect of drying our hair out. Then we have to condition it in hopes of getting it somewhere near its natural, somewhat oily state. Instead of this delicate mix of chemical-rubbing on our heads, why not just use something completely natural that achieves the desired goal? And we could save a few bunnies in the process ... if you're into that sort of thing. I mean, I totally understand that some people just freaking hate bunnies. Yosemite Sam comes to mind.
It's because they're excellent gun saboteurs.
People are big on global footprints these days, but what about a hygiene footprint? The MIT scientist who mists himself and heads off about his day seems like an eccentric weirdo who probably smells like the devil's ass, but he doesn't. He hurts zero animals in the course of his bathing, and poisons zero percent of the environment because there is no chemical waste to dispose of. If we could be followed around by what it takes to keep us clean for a year, the planet would be a constant parade of water trucks, a few hit-and-miss, cancer-causing chemicals and byproducts, and an army of mutated, angry four-legged mammals with rich, luscious hair.
Nature Wants You Covered in It Immediately
Allergies are way up in Western culture. Kids have nut allergies on a level that no one completely understands. Some scientists believe it has to do with the increased number of C-section births, which are much more sterile than vaginal births. I realize how crazy that sounds, but it makes sense when you hear the scientific explanation: When the baby doesn't travel through the vagina, it misses out on being dosed with a significant batch of vaginal microbes. It's like the child is rinsed in a factory-issued undercarriage sealant. They normally charge a lot extra for that, but Mom does it for free. Thanks, Mom!
Bifidobacteria make their way to an infant's intestine and start to build a defense against infection and inflammation. It does this with help from breast milk, which is a natural probiotic. Those are all the rage now to get beneficial microbes into the body, and your mom was pumping them into you right from the beginning. Some of those microbes made their way from her colon to her breast milk, into your mouth, and into your intestines because nature wants you to have the right bacteria in your system. Because nature is exactly as disgusting as it is helpful.
"Part of this was in my poop. Enjoy, and don't forget to tip."
Imagine if your mom had doused her breast milk in anti-bacterial solution. And if people were willing to go so far as to swab their newborns with vaginal bacteria, or let dogs lick them, or have them play in the sandbox and dig their hands into all kinds of foreign bacterial cultures, perhaps immunities would develop. Or maybe you'd have the unhealthiest child ever. But the longer we wait, the worse the peanut economy gets. Do you really want to see Mr. Peanut go broke? He already has a cane, you heartless masochist. How bad do you want him to get?
The Bacteria Inside You Might Define You ... or Change You
If your internal microbiome is thrown off balance, it can be deadly. Everyone is afraid of E. coli because it's like a bad drunk at a party that starts fighting everyone and giving them diarrhea. If you just don't give it any bad meat, it lives inside you like a polite citizen. But there are even scarier varieties of bacteria inside of you than E. coli. Clostridium difficile, if left unchecked, will proliferate and take over your system and straight up murder you, which is not very nice. But we don't have to be scared of all of these. We're figuring out how to manage them.
Sometimes, to set the cultures back to healthy levels, doctors will insert someone else's feces into your digestive tract. And that culture will balance out the C-diff and reset your levels like restarting a video game. (Feel free to interpret that as a metaphor on the current state of the video game industry.) So, who do you get the poop from? In certain situations, the feces from a slim person, inserted into a heavier person, has changed the heavier person's metabolism. Sick people have become healthy people. Left-handed people have become right-handed. That last one is unproven, but it could have happened. In my mind, I'm working up to poop-related superpowers, and you have to start small.
"The whores and politicians will ask for my poop ... and I'll look down and whisper, 'No.'"
The point is that there is a gold mine waiting out there for people to tap into. Bacteria is the next frontier. Everyone is going to want in on this. Celebrities can finally do what they've always kind of been doing all along, only now in a more tangible way. They can finally sell us their shit. People would be lining up around the block more excited than they are for the new iPhone. "Did you hear? JLo is releasing her new version today. She had spicy Indian food last night. I'm going to look amazing! It's bikini season!" No more slicing into your skin, or freezing it off, or even having to work out to lose weight. Just head to the store, buy a vial of celebrity poo, ingest it, do nothing, and just let the magical bacteria take care of the rest. The next penicillin could be living on your skin or in your bowels.
For more from David, check out his website or follow him on Twitter @Huntsbergerjunk.
For more of Cracked's medical discoveries, check out 6 Ways Bacteria Will Prevent the Apocalypse and How a Biotech Company Almost Killed The World (With Booze).