How getting “down and dirty” may be the secret to ultimate health

I’ve lived in New York most of my life. So you can imagine how many times I’ve ridden the subway.

In case you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing the subway for yourself, let me just say that some of the stereotypes are indeed true.

You do come into contact with some…colorful characters. And yes, it IS dirty. But it turns out both of those characteristics — which might turn some people off — may actually be the subway’s biggest assets. Because some new research shows riding the subway can expose you to just the kind of bacterial diversity your body needs to be healthy.

A team of researchers from Cornell Medical College took a ride on the NYC subway, collecting samples that ultimately turned up at least 15,000 different types of DNA. And they found some pretty amazing forms of life.

Yes, there was some nasty stuff in the samples — bacteria that can cause food poisoning, urinary tract infections, and even some forms of Streptococcus, which can lead to full body infections and meningitis.

But, before you panic and vow never to step foot on the subway — the vast majority of bacteria they found were harmless. And, in fact, exposure to such a wide variety of microorganisms is good for your microbiome.

Because it is the number of strains — NOT the total number of bugs — that dictates a human being’s health.

The same holds true when it comes to supporting your microbiome with a probiotic supplement. Bombarding your body with billions of CFUs of one or two strains of bacteria will do you little good in the end. The more strains the better. Which is why I stand by Dr. Ohhira’s as the best probiotic on the market.

So the next time you ride in a cab or take mass transit, don’t be afraid of a little dirt. Just think of it as bootcamp for your gut. Your immune system will thank you in the end.