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A++. This book gets 5 stars, if for no other reason than it includes consistent solid scientific evidence and its authors excel at engaging in critical thinking and helping their reader sift through the myriad data associated with gut microbes. There are so many books and articles about the gut microbiome. It is one of my favorite subjects and is busting on the science scene like epigenetics did a decade ago and advances in cognitive neuroscience did 3 decades ago (a phenomenon that is still ongoing). The problem with exciting science, often termed "sexy science," is that not only are people completely enamored with it, they are willing to believe anything an "expert" in the field tells them. Just like the world of neuro is absolutely polluted with pseudoscience (Dr. Expert/fraud's promotion: Train your brain with my easy but expensive program!), the field of the guy microbiome has an expert, who specializes in pseudoscience, around every corner. Everyone thinks they are allergic to gluten. Only very few people actually are. People are buying probiotics in increasing high numbers and are convinced the people selling them are knowledgable and honest. In truth, scientists do not even know which microbes are most effective for various conditions. When they do uncover a species of microbe, it may work in one person, but not another. Thus, it is not a cure for x. It is a beneficial microbe for that *type* of person to ingest but not beneficial for another type of person.
The reason why we know so little, and why there are not solidly effective probiotics being sold in stores, is not because probiotics in general are pseudoscience. They are not. In fact, probiotics might be our best chance at fighting many types of illnesses (especially those associated with inflammation), combating obesity, and even curing mental deficits such as depression, anxiety, and even Alzheimer's. But, the study of gut microbes is in its infancy. Researchers need more time to map out various relations.
Even though we are a long way from understanding the microbiome in enough detail to sell probiotics as effective remedies for various health issues, there is still reason to buy them, *if* you find out how to understand the differences in brands, types, etc. These authors provide sound advice for buying, making, and consuming probiotics. They are hippyish enough to appeal to alternative medicine folks ("We make our own food. We are organic. We let our kids play in the microbe filled dirt."), scientifically savvy ("Here is what x study said about y microbe/product), and relate to readers of all types.
I was sad to see such high ratings for Perlmutter and Loberg's book, The Brain Maker. It is clear that people will buy into anything they think they can trust. I hope my scientifically educated friends rate The Good Gut highly so that maybe it will drown out pseudoscientific books like Brain Maker.
21 of 24 people found this review helpful
I approached this book with a skeptical mindset. Much of what I had heard about the microbiota and the importance of eating things that are beneficial to your gut had come either from advertisements or from crackpots who thinks that their personal anecdotes trump all published science. Despite my initial antagonism to their arguments, the authors managed to break down my defenses to deliver a rather strong message, namely that our microbiota is vital to us and that what we eat will affect it. In other words, we live in a powerful symbiosis with our gut bacteria. I can recommend this book if you are searching for an introduction to this field.
We have about 100 trillion microbes in our gut. In comparison, we have about 37 trillion cells with ‘our’ DNA in them. This fact alone implies that the microbiota plays an important function. More and more research points to the microbiota as a key player in our immune system. When a pathogen gets into our gut, it will have to compete with the bacteria already present in the gut. So depending the quantity and quality of your microbiota, pathogens will have more or less trouble getting established, and in extension, making you sick.
From this knowledge follows many implications. Fecal transplants for instance, in which the microbiota (stool) is taken from one person and given to another, can affect the recipient's immune system as well as their digestion. Indeed, as you will learn if you read this book, there are even studies suggesting that stool transplants can not only health status but also moods (perhaps because health and moods are linked?).
This is a good book. The writing is accessible. The authors are scientists and, unlike many other people who argue for the importance of the microbiota; they base most of their arguments on scientific studies. However, even though I can understand the impulse, I was sometimes taken aback by the author's willingness to use personal anecdotes. The authors (who are by the way married), have a son who had problems with his microbiota and throughout the book, the authors discuss how they implemented what science taught them, in their home. Anecdotes are of course very powerful and the anecdotes in this book help drive home its message. However, sometimes, I got the feeling that they used anecdotes to argue beyond what we know from science. In doing so they are approaching the dark side, the one filled with crackpots and people who believe that eating beans make you immune to any disease. I hope that they can stay on the right side in the future, though I fear for them. To not end on a negative note, which would be unfair, this was indeed a good book. Highly recommended for everyone!
8 of 9 people found this review helpful