Book Review: ‘The Microbiome Solution’ asks, ‘are you too clean?’
November 14, 2015
The Microbiome Solution: A Radical New Way to Heal Your Body from the Inside Out
by Robynne Chutkan, M.D.
"Live Dirty, Eat Clean," is the mantra of Dr. Robynne Chutkan, gastroenterologist, in her new book "The Microbiome Solution: a Radical New Way to Heal Your Body from the Inside Out." Interestingly, this has not always been her perspective.
Having trained to treat disease with the most powerful medications and procedures at her disposal, she believed in the efficacy of modern medicine, but the actions of her patients and her daughter's personal experience with antibiotic over-prescription motivated her to deeply examine the issue of what makes us healthy and what disrupts our health.
For those not up on the latest rage, the microbiome is a collective name for the trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that live in our body and on the surface of our skin. We have so many microbes that share our real estate, Chutkan refers to us as more "microbe than human," and cites a number of studies that show the microbial makeup of our skin and digestive system determines obesity and disease.
Studies show that our Western diet of processed, shelf-stable foods, sugar and excess meat consumption, our use of hand-sanitizers, our emphasis on Cesarean sections over natural childbirth and a lifetime of drug use have disrupted our "rain forest" by reducing the numbers of the very organisms that keep us healthy.
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The solution? Simply living a bit more dirty and eating a diet that emphasizes plants over refined carbohydrates and meat gives the "good" obesity- and disease-fighting microbes a better environment in which to flourish, leading to better health.
Though Chutkan emphasizes there is a place for sanitization, powerful medications and Cesarean sections, she also advocates that we not pursue such paths without a plan and the willingness to ask hard questions of our physicians.
"The Microbiome Solution" also offers a host of recipes to help readers "rewild" their biome and talks in-depth about probiotics, both commercial and natural options. Warning — there is a substantial "ick" factor once Chutkan leaves the comfortable conversation of how to eat clean and moves on to dirty.
From using ammonia oxidizing bacteria and homemade remedies in place of showering, to an entire chapter devoted to "everything you wanted to know about stool transplants but were afraid to ask," this book is sure to make you squirm. In its defense, however, it will also encourage you to rethink your relationship to your body and the organisms that do the heavy lifting on your behalf.
This intriguing book has sparked considerable conversation in our household as I am sure it will in yours.
Chutkan's "The Microbiome Solution," as well as her earlier book, "Gutbliss," are available at Bud Werner Memorial Library and at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore.
Alysa Selby is digital services librarian at Bud Werner Memorial Library.
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