Living with Viruses and Bacteria

We live in a world that is filled with invisible living creatures known as microbes.  Algae, fungi, and bacteria are types of microbes. Microbes are single-celled, living creatures. Look at a drop of pond water under a microscope and you will see a variety of fascinating creatures of different shapes, sizes and methods of movement.

Microbes exist as an integral part of the natural world, they are essential to life as we know it. We could not function without them. They are in the food we eat, the things we touch, and the air we breathe.

Microbes are found throughout the earth, from the highest mountain tops to the deepest caves and ocean trenches, in frozen lakes and oceans and even in the hottest geothermal environments. 

Most of us have seen green slim on a pool of water. It is created by billions of algae cells. Many green smoothie drinks contain algae. Algae are great sources of B-12, minerals, and proteins.

If you enjoy bread and beer, then you are familiar with fungi in the form of yeast. Mushrooms, mold and mildew are also fungi. 

Bacteria are often portrayed as villains. Mention the word bacteria, many people often think of illness. However, if you enjoy foods like yogurt, cheese, pickles, olives and wine, then you need to thank bacteria. 

Viruses are microbes that actually are a mystery. There is debate on whether or not they are  living organisms.

There are seven characteristics of a living thing:

  1. Takes in nutrition
  2. Respiration
  3. Movement
  4. Excretion
  5. Growth
  6. Reproduction
  7. Sensitivity

Although viruses possess genetic material of DNA and/or RNA, they lack the ability to grow and reproduce on their own. Viruses invade living cells and use that cell’s genetic material to create more viruses. Viruses are parasites. 

We often tend to think of microbes as being either good or bad. However, in Nature there is no good or bad, there is only balance. Microbes are all around us. Some cause disease, while others cure disease. 

Surrounded, as we are by trillions of different microbes, the question becomes, how do we protect ourselves from microbes that cause disease? The answer lies in our immune system: the body’s ability to protect itself from microbes that are causing harm to the body.

Symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and fever are all tools of the immune system designed to rid the body of microbes that are harmful. In order to be effective, our immune system must be strong and healthy. 

If the immune system is too weak, harmful microbes overpower the body.  Too strong and the immune system might over-react and attack the body’s own cells. We want to develop a balanced, healthy immune system. It is not appropriate to live in fear of microbes that cause disease. Fear increases stress and stress decreases the immune system.

Cleanliness is important in warding off disease-causing microbes. However, it’s impractical for us to try sterilizing our environments to remove all microbes.

In reality, we don’t want to do that. We require microbes in our lives. Being exposed to microbes is what helps build our immune system. Instead of living in fear, we can engage in well-documented actions that build healthy, balanced immune systems.  

  1. Get enough sleep. Insufficient sleep is “…associated with increased susceptibility to the common cold.”(1). Check out my series “Sleep, Glorious Sleep” for ideas on improving sleep.
  2. Regular, moderate exercise improves blood circulation, decreases inflammation, and increases the immune system.
  3. Dehydration increases susceptibility to disease.  Drink plenty of fluids; water not sugary drinks. Older people tend to lose their sense of thirst and should be encouraged to drink fluids. (2)
  4. Manage stress. Long-term stress increases inflammation and imbalances the immune system. Activities such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness, journaling, and similar practices have been shown to increase the function of the immune system.(3) 
  5. Limit sugar consumption, it is linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, inflammation and weakened immune system.(3)
  6. Watch your diet! A plant-based provides the vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants essential for optimum health.

  References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26118561
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908954/
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-boost-immune-health

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