If the title to this article caused you pause, we don’t blame you. E. coli is nasty and, at times, it can honestly seem as if it’s everywhere. From the fairly recent Chipotle outbreak to the Costco chicken salad contamination, there’s no reason for you to think that E. coli could ever be good. When you say “E. coli,” people shudder. Your stomach curls into itself, and it’s because everyone has always told you that it’s so bad. There are times, however, that E. coli can — believe it or not — be a good thing.
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First, let’s get some facts straight. Your body houses E., or Escherichia, coli naturally. This probiotic bacteria can be found in both human and animal intestines, and the majority of it is harmless. Harmless and good aren’t necessarily synonyms, but neither are harmless and bad. So, since E. coli’s not all bad, when can it be good?
As we noted, E. coli is a probiotic. Many of us take probiotic supplements containing billions of live bacteria every day. This is no different — in fact, E. coli does everything that other probiotic bacteria do. Sure, an Escherichia coli cell could be infected or contaminated with other fungi, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Studies have shown the link between uncontaminated E. coli and improved intestinal (and overall) health. E coli can also promote antibody production, helping to ward off infections. Do we think you should embrace E. coli and everything that it stands for? Certainly not. But do we think it’s misunderstood? Yes.
The accompanying slideshow is provided by special contributor Yasmin Fahr.