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  1. Book Review: The Germ Files

    February 28, 2016 by Diane

    The Germ Files

    Jason Tetro spent fifteen years researching microbiology at the University of Ottawa, so he’s a germ expert. Or a hypochondriac. Being an expert hypochondriac myself, I opened this book with some trepidation after reading the bold red type on the back cover: “SOME GERMS ARE OUT TO GET US.”

    Yikes.

    I plunged bravely onward, opening the book at random to a page about honey. With its proteins, antioxidants, minerals, fructose, glucose, sucrose and fermented antimicrobials, raw honey can attack bacteria known to cause cavities. Sweet! But wait, that’s not all. Once swallowed, it prevents heartburn and damage to the stomach wall from acid production. How cool is that! And just how does honey manage these miraculous feats? Because in it’s raw form (that’s unpasteurized, folks), it’s fermented, containing several good bacteria and their byproducts.

    Byproducts? Oh, geez. I don’t want to know.

    Flipping to another page, I discovered that Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, two species of probiotics, not only help you digest food, they release a plethora of vitamins and minerals in the gut, help prevent the onset of the trots, and…check this out…keep us calm. And oh, by the way, they seek out and destroy bacteria “known to cause rotting and human infection.”

    “GET ME A BOTTLE!” I hollered to no one in particular. And then this caught my eye:

    Where do the people who produce probiotics for consumption find their bacteria? Well, in milk or some fermented material…maybe.

    Or human feces.

    Wait! What!?

    Specifically, baby feces. What better subject for gathering specimens than an infant with its gut full of strong bacterial species.

    Feeling woozy yet?

    Fear not. After all the testing in the laboratory to see if said feces bacteria can survive stomach acid, bile, and loss of oxygen, and have the ability to cling to human cells in the digestive track while dueling with potential pathogens and not harming its human host in the process, those who remain victorious are used for probiotic development. The end result is far, far removed from that sweet little baby’s behind.

    Whew.

    This book is filled with fascinating tidbits. From hygiene to beauty products, health, food, diet, childcare and yes, even sex, the author does a bang-up job of explaining how germs impact us for the good or ill, where they come from, how they live (and die), how they protect us, and how to avoid their harm. And he does so in a highly readable, entertaining yet informative fashion.

    If you want to live in harmony with those 137 trillion freeloaders that you’re harboring, read this book.