The Microbiome Solution is not your ordinary diet book. It’s more of an education in how our bodies work and how we can impact them to produce better health. Health expert and author Dr. Robynne Chutkan honed the information she shares in the book through observation, trial and error in her practice as an integrative gastroenterologist and founder of the Digestive Center for Wellness in Maryland.
Chutkan has made it her mission to help us understand how our body’s microbes influence the state of our health and the power we have to change them for the better. She is a member of the medical advisory board for The Dr. Oz Show and a regular guest covering digestive health. She was the host of the National Institutes of Health Clinical Roundtable Series and a medical consultant and on-air talent for Discovery Health Channel. Chutkan has also been featured on The Today Show, CBS This Morning, and The Doctors and is frequently interviewed as a medical expert for the Washington Post.
In her book, Chutkan defines microbiome as “all the organisms that live in or on your body.” She’s talking about bacteria, viruses, fungus, and, yes, even worms. That’s a whopping one hundred trillion microbes which can be found in or on your body at any given time. Referring to it as “the zoo inside you,” Chutkan explains how this multitude of microbes work together to support bodily functions and the importance of keeping them healthy, happy, and properly balanced.
She begins with how we attain our microbes and emphasizes getting back to nature. The most natural arrival is believed to be that which is imparted to us from our mothers, through the processes of natural childbirth and breast feeding. From there, we pick up microbes from the foods we eat and the environments we come into contact with throughout our lives. Our environment, in particular, plays a key role. It used to be that we picked up these health cohorts when we went out to play in the woods or garden in the yard. Now, children sit in front of monitors and a majority of us sit at desks all day. Chutkan stresses the importance of this contact with nature in keeping your microbiome healthy and diverse. While you can take a probiotic pill she says, it will not come close to providing the complete range of microbes that your body has worked to collect over the course of your lifetime.
Chutkan goes on to explain how illness and obesity are quite possibly the result of an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in our microbiomes, known as dysbiosis. This imbalance allows the bad bacteria to take over, forcing good microbes and bacteria out and resulting in disease. Dysbiosis is the most common disorder Chutkan sees in her practice and she believes that it very well may be the underlying explanation for inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. She is also convinced that dysbiosis could provide an explanation as to why so many people have trouble losing weight. Adamant about her theory, Chutkan even went so far as to conduct a nutritional study among twelve of her patients as a means of addressing their Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis symptoms, and it worked! Her study found that dietary changes restored balance to her patients’ microbiomes and significantly relieved their symptoms. Addressing dysbiosis could well be the most simple and profound treatment for a variety of medical conditions.
So how do we regain this delicate microbiome balance? Chutkan’s “Live Dirty, Eat Clean” plan recommends two basic tenets: first we need to “re-wild,” meaning that we need to restock the good bacteria lost to years of neglect and sanitation. Re-wilding is easily attained by stopping the bad behavior that’s killing off your bacteria and throwing your microbiome out of whack. Stop medicating your bacteria, stop scrubbing your skin every time you come in contact with an unfamiliar environment, and get outside more often. By stopping the behaviors that kill microbes, your body will be better able to regain what was lost and foster the growth and strength of the good microbes you need for optimal health.
Second, we need to feed our bacterial friends the foods that will keep them in balance, so they are able to support our health. Start eating prebiotics, foods that feed your good bacteria and encourage them to do their jobs, and stop eating junk. These two simple steps can restore harmony to your microbiome, therefore restoring overall health.
Chutkan’s “Live Dirty, Eat Clean” plan is a realistic and well thought out lifestyle program that’s full of information, recipes, and steps that allow you to take back control and influence your health for the better. Her mantra is “live a little dirtier and eat a little cleaner.”
The Microbiome Solution is an insightful, well-written and easily absorbed book that provides the education and tools to influence your health for the entirety of your life. I strongly encourage anyone interested in better health and living well to indulge in this educational insight in lieu of trendy diets that vilify, restrict, and berate food and lifestyle choices.
Pam Salvadore of La Quinta is a nutrition journalist. For more information from Pam visit her blog pamsalvadore.wordpress.com The Microbiome Solution is available at national book retailers and online. For more information visit Chutkan’s website, www.gutbliss.com.