Bacteria growing in your belly button is good for you -

Bacteria in your belly button may be good for you

According to a new study conducted at North Carolina State University (NCSU), we could all be doing a lot more harm than good by trying to get extra clean especially if you're using some form of anti-bacterial soap.

Researchers have discovered hundreds of helpful bacteria species by just swiping a swab across the skin of our belly button.

It's every scientist's dream to discover a new species, but instead of traveling to far-off lands, NCSU Associate Professor Rob Dunn found 500 students, and their belly buttons.

What he discovered gives us an inside glimpse into the biological warfare occurring on our bodies each day, and it may change the way you bathe.

We all have one at birth, and we all don't pay it much attention afterward.

"It doesn't do much of anything," says Andrea Lucky who participated in the Belly Button Diversity Project at NCSU.

A simple swab against the skin shows more than 1,400 species of bacteria living inside our belly button.

"It's kind of a nature reserve on your body," said Dunn.

Lucky describes her belly button as "little cave of bacteria." 

The little creatures inside it are doing a lot of work.

"These are your most intimate partners, and many of them don't even have names yet," said Dunn.

Dipping into a sample of belly button bacteria paints a petri-dish picture of what's going on around the rest of the body, biological warfare. 

Bacteria acts as our body's first line of defense.

Dunn likens it to a "moat around your bodily castle."

Results from 500 belly button swab samples showed battlefields between different species of bacteria.

The helpful strains are producing mother-nature-made-antibiotics to attack the harmful strains.

Dunn also found that no two belly buttons were alike in micro-organism make-up, but the bacteria in each acted as the body's own medicine cabinet.

"If you were to wipe all the bacteria off your skin, you would become infected with some really weird, really weedy pathogen," said Dunn.

Ironically, we certainly try with gels, wipes, and all sorts of sprays designed to sanitize leaving dead the bacteria that do us harm, but also the bacteria that do us a lot of good.

Think of your body's bacteria like a forest. If you keep washing with harsh cleaners, it wipes everything out, like cutting down a forest. This allows "weeds", or bad bacteria, to spring up because the healthy forest has been cleared away.

Dunn hopes this news will light a fire under consumers to treat their good bacteria better by being more conscious about their cleaners.

"Back to basics. Soap and water has saved millions of lives in preventing disease," and Dunn adds, "As far as I know, anti-microbial wipes and detergents have saved none." 

Dunn says we change the species living on us every time we wash or wipe so be a little more protective of your belly button and the rest of your body's natural bacterial buffer.

"It's mine, I gotta take care of it," Lucky says.

Researchers, admittedly, don't know everything about the good bacteria in your belly button or on the rest of your body.

But hundreds, if not thousands, of them call your skin home all in an effort it seems to keep you healthy.

If you're not sold on the idea that body bacteria is beneficial, consider this case study. When one woman found out just what was growing in her belly button, she started scrubbing and came back with a bad infection.

Dr. Dunn says that's what happens when you get rid of the good stuff.

Additional information:

  • Researchers found not everyone carries the same type of belly button bacteria.
  • The vast majority of bacteria species found on your body scientists can't get to grow in a petri dish. Scientists know they can feed on your body, but have not discovered how to feed them isolated.
  • The bacterium they found in a belly button that is also responsible for stinky feet is called: bacillus subtilis.
  • Almost all bodily smells (feet, arm pit, hair) are created by microbes.
  • People who are born by c-section have a different bacterial make-up than people born vaginally.
  • The majority of species (56%) were found on just one person, represented in a single swab. There seems to be a "suite" of species that many of us share although individual differences persist.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends the following:

  • Washing with warm or cold water, rubbing with soap for at least 20 seconds (or hum "Happy Birthday" twice).
  • Washing with soap and water is the best way to reduce germs but if not available, use an alcohol based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. (

Copyright 2011 America Now. All rights reserved.

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