In The Anti-Viral Gut, integrative gastroenterologist Robynne Chutkan, MD builds upon her previous books, especially The Microbiome Solution (2016), to provide an update for maintaining a healthy gut and immune system. This is an important book for our times as 70% of the immune system is in the gut and the health of our gut microbiome is crucial to good health and protection from viral infections such as COVID and others.
This book is well organized and reads like an easily understood course in gut health and immune protection. Dr. Chutkan starts with explaining the gut-immune connection. Besides the microbiome and its 100 trillion organisms, I learned the term “virome” which describes the 300 trillion viruses on and in the body. Most of these organisms are helpful and protect us.
The second part of the book covers what goes wrong and can cause “dysbiosis,” or an unhealthy microbiome. It should be no surprise to learn that the health of our microbiome depends on what we eat and that highly processed foods cause dysbiosis and leaky gut. An unhealthy gut is primed for more severe infections and a large number of other chronic diseases such as autoimmune conditions which are on the rise globally.
In her book, Chutkan also presents a comprehensive anti-viral gut plan using the categories “Remove, Replace and Restore.” First, you remove medications, unhealthy practices and foods that are damaging the microbiome. She makes a strong case for maintaining stomach acid and how to get off the acid-blocking drugs that make us vulnerable to infections. “Replace” missing or depleted essential bacteria through “exposure to soil microbes, fermented foods, and robust prebiotics and probiotics.” Specific recommendations are made for foods with some soil and quality probiotic options. “Restore” includes building up the mucous gut shield layer that protects us and stops the harm of leaky gut.
These are her key recommendations:
- Eat more plants
- Select your carbs carefully (choose low sugar and eat resistant starches such as sweet potatoes, yams, taro, plantains and wild rice)
- Get ample fiber such as foods high in inulin including artichokes, asparagus, garlic, leeks and onions
- Eat fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles
- Eat “dirty food” such as that from the local farmer’s market
- When it comes to food: farm yes, factory no
For the anti-viral gut diet, Chutkan divides foods into green light (eat abundantly), yellow light (eat sparingly) and red light (avoid entirely). A separate section is devoted to beverages.
In addition to covering other elements of an anti-viral lifestyle such as exercise, sleep and stress management, the book provides a variety of recipes.
If everyone followed the anti-viral gut plan, our population would be much healthier. We all have a choice in what we eat and how we live. I personally recommend this book several times daily to patients.
Dr. Scherger is founder of Restore Health in Indian Wells, a clinic dedicated to weight loss and reversing disease. To schedule a consultation or for more information, visit www.restorehealth.me or call (760) 898.9663.