The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-term Health

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9780143108085: The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-term Health
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The groundbreaking science behind the surprising source of good health

Stanford University’s Justin and Erica Sonnenburg are pioneers in the most exciting and potentially transformative field of human health and wellness, the study of the relationship between our bodies and the trillions of organisms representing thousands of species to which our bodies play host, the microbes we call the microbiota. The Sonnenburgs argue that the microbiota determines in no small part whether we’re sick or healthy, fit or obese, sunny or moody—and that the microbiota has always been with us, coevolving with humans and entwining its functions with ours. They show us that humans are really composite organisms with microbial and human parts. But now, because of changes to diet, antibiotic over-use, and over-sterilization, our gut microbiota is facing a “mass extinction event,” which may explain the mysterious spike in some of our most troubling modern afflictions, from food allergies to autism, cancer to depression. It doesn’t have to be this way.
 
The Good Gut is a groundbreaking work that offers a new plan for health that focuses on how to nourish your microbiota, including recipes and a menu plan. The Sonnenburgs show how we can keep our microbiota off the endangered species list and strengthen the community that inhabits our gut and thereby improve our own health. In this important and timely investigation, they look at safe alternatives to antibiotics; dietary and lifestyle choices to encourage microbial health; the management of the aging microbiota; and the nourishment of your own individual microbiome.
 
Caring for our gut microbes may be the most important health choice we can make.

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About the Author:

Justin Sonnenburg, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. In 2009, he was the recipient of an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award.

Erica Sonnenburg, PhD
, is a senior research scientist at the Stanford University School of Medicine in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, where she studies the role of diet on the human intestinal microbiota.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

We all know that much of our health is predeter­mined by our genes. We also know that we can gener­ally improve our health if we eat right, exercise, and manage our stress. But how to do those things is a matter of great debate. Many well-meaning health programs are focused solely on weight loss or heart health, but what if there was a second genome, one that held the key to much of our overall health, but one that we could influence by very specific (and often surprising) lifestyle choices? Well, this second genome exists. It belongs to the bacteria that inhabit our gut and is vital to our overall well-being, in countless ways. The details of how these intestinal bac­teria, known as the microbiota, are hard-wired into health and disease are starting to come to light and they are reshaping what it means to be human.

As scientists try to unravel the causes behind the prevalence of predominantly Western afflictions such as cancer, diabetes, allergies, asthma, autism, and inflamma­tory bowel diseases, it is becoming increasingly clear that the microbiota plays an important role in the development of each of these conditions and poten­tially many others. Our bacterial inhabitants touch all aspects of our biology in some way, directly or indirectly. But the modern world has changed the way we eat and how we live, and as a result, our in­testinal microbiota is facing challenges that it has not experienced in the entirety of human evolution.

Our digestive system is much more than a col­lection of human cells that surround our last few meals—it also contains a dense colony of bacteria and other microorganisms. In fact, for every one human cell in our body, we house an additional ten bacte­rial cells that amount to a filibuster­proof majority that legislates much of our biology. But before you start thinking of yourself as a human being with bacterial cells inside, it may be more accurate to consider yourself as a bacterial being with a human cell coating.

More than we ever expected, the gut microbiota sets the dial on our immune system. If the gut bacteria are healthy, it’s likely that the immune system is running well. Much is being learned about how the microbiota impacts our brains. The brain-gut axis impacts our well-being profoundly, far more than just letting us know when it’s time to eat. Gut bacteria can affect moods and behavior and may influence the progres­sion of some neurological conditions.

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