By LOUISE CARR, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
Too much bacteria in your blood can kill you. Blood is normally completely sterile so the presence of bacteria in the blood is abnormal, and can be highly dangerous.
Bacteria in the blood, or "bacteremia", occurs when the blood is contaminated as a result of infection, during surgery, or when catheters and needles enter the arteries or veins.
But did you know that bacteria are also easily introduced into the blood through a cut or a graze, having sex, or even biting your fingernails?
The consequences of bacteria in the blood can be severe - your immune system may respond to the presence of bacteria by causing sepsis and septic shock.
According to Merck Manuals, 25 to 40 percent of patients with bacteria in the blood develop septic shock. Fortunately your body has its own blood detoxification system - the kidneys, liver and intestines work hard to filter toxins from the blood stream. You can help these organs do their blood-purifying job by eating the right foods and taking the right blood-purifying herbs and supplements.
What are the Dangers of Bacteria in Your Blood?
Sepsis or septicemia is a life-threatening medical condition caused by an immune response to bacteria in the blood.
The chemicals that are released during this immune response cause widespread inflammation which can lead to organ damage. The blood may clot and reduce the flow of blood to the limbs and the internal organs, which can lead to organ failure.
If your blood pressure drops to critical levels, called septic shock, this can cause multiple organ failure and death.
What are the Symptoms of Bacteria in the Blood?
If bacteria enters your blood you may not have any symptoms, or you may suffer a mild fever.
If you develop symptoms like shaking, confusion, high fever, rapid pulse, rapid breathing, chills, low blood pressure and abdominal pain and nausea, it is often a sign that the condition has progressed to sepsis or septic shock.
In order to keep sepsis at bay, it helps to keep the blood - and the body - healthy and free from toxins.
We looked at the recent scientific evidence that shows which foods and herbs are good for cleansing the blood and removing bacteria from the body.
1. Garlic is a Blood-Cleansing Food
Eating raw garlic may do more than make your breath smell. It could help to clean your blood.
Raw garlic is full of sulfur, which helps to rid toxins from the body. Garlic also helps to stimulate the liver and filter toxins from the bloodstream.
Studies such as a 1996 report from Brown University School of Medicine show that raw garlic has the power to kill fungi, viruses and bacteria on contact, so it is a useful weapon when trying to keep your blood free from bacteria.
2. Eat Fresh Dandelion Leaves and Root to Clean the Blood
Dandelion root has long been regarded as a liver tonic - the type of substance that helps to support the liver's cleansing processes.
Publications such as "The Healing Power of Herbs: The Enlightened Person's Guide to the Wonders of Medicinal Plants" by MT Murray include this power of dandelion, and research from the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (1996) point to dandelion's ability to stimulate the flow of bile.
This helps the digestive system and also aids in the cleansing of the blood.
3. Eating Parsley Helps Eliminate Toxins from the Blood
Parsley is a diuretic which helps your kidneys function efficiently in order to eliminate toxins from the body and prevent infections. Parsley may also be useful for preventing infections from bacteria in the blood.
A 1980 study by Ross SA, Megalla SE, Bishay DW, et al showed parsley extract applied to the skin had some effect against Staphylococcus bacteria.
4. Turmeric Acts as a Blood-Friendly Spice
The active ingredient in turmeric - curcumin - has been traditionally used to treat liver problems and as such it has a place in the treatment of bacteria in the blood.
A 2000 study from the National Health Research Institute, Taipei, Taiwan and a 1998 study from the Radiation Medicine Centre (BARC), Bombay, India show that turmeric may help to protect the liver from damage. A healthy liver makes for health blood.
5. Burdock Helps Prevent Bacteria in the Blood
Burdock root is a detoxifying herb that helps increase the power of the kidneys and boosts the function of the liver to remove toxins, therefore helping to purify the blood.
In a 2009 study from Yantai University, Yantai, Shandong, China, burdock is shown to have both anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, due in part to the lignans in the root called arctiin and arctigenin.
6. Take Goldenseal to Purify the Blood?
Goldenseal root is a multi-purpose herb that helps to cleanse major organs and provide general immune system support, which is useful in the case of bacteria in the blood.
The active ingredient in goldenseal is berberine, which has antimicrobial actions and can kill certain types of bacteria, according to a 2012 study by The University of North Carolina Greensboro, Greensboro.
7. Apples Help Prevent Problems with Bacteria in the Blood
Apples contain particularly high levels of a type of fiber called pectin, which studies show helps to remove fats and cholesterol from the liver and blood. A 1998 study from Utrecht University, The Netherlands demonstrates that apple pectin lowers plasma and liver cholesterol concentration. Apples also contain good levels of antioxidants which help to remove free radicals in the blood.