The Microbiome Solution: a radical new way to heal your body from the inside out
by Robynne Chutkan
Scribe Publications (2016)
Even in the absence of comprehensive scientific testing – which author Chutkan, a clinical gastroenterologist, admits still has gaps – the argument in The Microbiome Solution is pretty compelling.
Processed foods and the over-prescription of antibiotics to fight everything from acne to Crohn’s disease, it claims, has thrown the balance of the human microbiome – the colonies of bacteria that inhabit our digestive system – out of whack.
She believes a return to “dirty” food – grown rather than manufactured – and letting our bodies be sick when they need, instead of fighting off every minor bug with pharmaceuticals, will combat a myriad of modern inflammatory syndromes such as colitis and rheumatoid arthritis. Even without Chutkan’s clinical stories, there’s no arguing that human health has changed drastically over the past century, with formerly unknown conditions such as autism spectrum disorder and food allergies now more rife than ever before.
The Microbiome Solution not only makes a good case that increasingly “mechanised” food production is one of the causes. It goes further, suggesting that we clean and disinfect ourselves too obsessively on the outside as well.
Chutkan says a medical term called dysbiosis, which describes a microbial imbalance, lies at the heart of our upset microbiomes. She is not the only doctor suggesting it might be behind a host of inflammatory bowel diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, obesity and even cancer.
The book starts with a chapter that introduces us to the concept of a delicately balanced garden that is set down through gestation and birth, and maintained (or not) by our diet and exposure to toxins.
Each chapter opens with a story from Chutkan’s practice, usually a desperate patient at the end of their tether after endless courses of drugs that do little long-term good.
Chutkan claims just one course of antibiotics can throw the microbiome out for months. In some cases it takes a radical diet detox and up to several years to repair more entrenched imbalances, but often a change in diet and stopping all the medication can cause a life-changing shift.
There’s a whole chapter containing everything you ever wanted to know about fecal microbiota transplants (and plenty you didn’t, including the fact that you can do it yourself at home if you so desire), and a section on recipes and lifestyle to help you – as Chutkan puts it – live dirty and eat clean.
Drew Turney is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles.
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