Book Review: The Good Gut

At this month’s Talk Green to Me book club, we had two book options to read. I had already read Michael Pollan’s Cooked, so this time I dug into The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long Term Health.

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I’d seen all the yogurt commercials plugging benefits of probiotics but never really understood what they were or considered giving them a shot. This book was my first introduction into the world of gut health, and I would recommend it to anyone. The authors describe how with all of the bacteria that thrive within your gut, it’s really its own microbiome that requires care and maintenance, and the very real impacts it can have on your health.

“Our gut bacteria belong on the endangered species list. The average American has approximately 1,200 different species of bacteria residing in his or her gut. That may seem like a lot until you consider that the average Amerindian living in the Amazonas of Venezuela has roughly 1,600 species, a full third more. Similary, other groups of humans with lifecycles and diets more similar to our ancient human ancestors have more varied bacteria in their gut than we Americans do.”

They go on to detail about the history of how man evolved in a symbiotic relationship with various kinds of gut bacteria, how the womb is a sterile environment but the mother’s bacteria is passed to the child through natural birth, how what kind of bacteria you nurture directly affects your health sensitivities and weight, how antibiotics and certain diets can wreak havoc on your system, and so much more.

In the end, if you’re curious to know exactly what types of bacteria are living inside of you, the American Gut Project has options to send in a sample and find out, plus how it compares to other people. It’s a decent chunk of money, but I have to admit I’m curious and it’s on my list to revisit in a couple of months (to avoid impulse purchases).

Either way, it’s not too difficult to start adopting their tenets of a microbiota-friendly diet–feed your gut bacteria with plenty of complex carbohydrates, limit meat and saturated fat consumption, and consume beneficial microbes a.k.a. probiotics.

The book provides a list of options for probiotic food sources. For those who like me are trying to cut dairy, that cuts out the majority but leaves the vegetable (kimchee, pickles, sauerkraut) or grain/legume (miso, natto, tempeh) options, as well as kombucha. Or, as an easier first step, I’m thinking of making Zero Waste Chef’s carbonated lemonade, using a ginger bug for the carbonation. How can you go wrong with lemonade?

“If you pass small stools, you have to have large hospitals” – Dr. Denis Burkitt

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