Friday, November 15, 2019

The Clever Guts Diet: How to Revolutionize Your Body from the Inside Out (2017), Book Review

The Clever Guts Diet: How to Revolutionize Your Body from the Inside Out (2017) by Dr Michael Mosley

"All disease begins in the gut," says Hippocrates of Kos (460-370 BC), Greek physician, the father of Western medicine. Based on Dr Michael Mosley's book, Hippocrates was right! Gut, the not-so-glamorous organ of the human body, plays important role in extracting energy from our food, accounts for most of our immune system and produces lots of essential hormones that influence everything from our appetite to our mood. Not only all (I think, most) disease begins in the gut, but good health also somewhat begins in the gut. Deep buried in our intestines, the gut is "made up of the same cells, neurons, which are found in the brain" and "there are over 100 million neurons [in it], as many as you would find in the brain of a cat," write Dr Michael. Technically, the gut is our 'second brain’ (I have a 'gut feeling' about this). Whenever I see a cat now, I imagine its brain is neurotically almost the same numbers as my gut!

The heroes inside our gut are called microbes. Dr Michael explains: "Until recently the world of the microbiome was a dark, dank and private one. Down there live creatures that have never seen the light of day, more than 50 trillion of them, at least 1000 different species, a richer diversity of life than you would find in a rainforest." Astounding! (this fact reminds me of Giulia Enders' Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Under-Rated Organ). If you study the gut and microbes inside our body and how it influences our decisions in some ways, you will wonder, as human beings do we really have free-will? That's a good philosophical question, right? …for another time. By the way, microbes are called "Old Friends" because they are always with us since the beginning and are essential for our health. In this book, Dr Michael explores the kingdom of the microbiome first by self-experimentations, find the reliable and latest scientific researches, share stories and end with how to improve, heal and 'help' our good "Old Friends" in the most practical ways.

It is said that junk foods and overuse of antibiotics (in the animal meats, especially. Probably in Malaysia we are slightly safer than that of the Western countries like America and British. But we never know for sure) have wiped our many 'good' gut bacteria, leading to a very modern phenomenon of allergies, coeliac diseases, food intolerances, irritable bowel syndrome and obesity. We need to nurture and create good conditions in our gut to make sure that 'good' bacteria (hard to pronoun names I tell you) are always available and lively in our body for optimum health. How to do it? There are lots of suggestions in the book, but basically:

1) Make Your Biome More Diverse. The more different types of plants you eat, the more diverse your microbiome. In short, eat more plants. Avoid junk foods and anything to do with antibiotics (as I said, this we can't be sure. So, minimize your intake of meats). Get your hands dirty like gardening or exercise outdoor can expose you to good bacteria. Just don’t be overexposed…

2) Nourish the Gut with Food Boosters. To borrow Dr Mike Dow's Diet Rehab term, 'booster', is referring to food (and activity) that is good for you. Here Dr Michael outlines such as olive oil, oily fish, fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, home-made yogurt and fermented foods. These will put a smile on our “Old Friends.” All of these foods, I think, must be taken in moderation and based on your body needs. I suggest you experiment with it and read more about it because as you know, information can differ. Other ways to nourish your biome are intermittent fasting, exercise regularly and have a good sleep.

3) Avoid Gut-Killers Foods. Top of Michael's list is sugar and processed food. Besides sugar in general, artificial sweeteners also must be avoided or reduced drastically. As for my own personal practice, I avoid fast foods and snacks. High-fat, trans-oil, high-sugar and bad-carbs are a no-no game. Not only they will kill 'good' bacteria, but they also can promote the growth of 'bad' bacteria in our gut. Resulted in what? Bad health and excessive weight (let's be honest here, once in a while, I eat at the fast-food restaurants and chew some snacks. I don't make it a habit though).

I'm familiar with the works of Dr Michael Mosley, doctor and medical journalist, because I watched some of his TV documentaries especially my favourite The Story of Science: Power, Proof and Passion (2010) Documentary. He is curious, clever and a good storyteller. I'm interested in the realm of health only recently this year especially after I read Spartan Up! I share Dr Michael's hope and dream that the future of eating healthy is bright even though there are lots of counterfeits at the moment. He concludes, "Keeping your biome properly fed and cared for is definitely worthwhile. If you look after all those friendly microbes then they will look after you. We are at the start of what I am convinced is a whole new way of approaching and understanding nutrition, one that could change the way we treat a wide range of diseases, from obesity to depression. This is just the beginning – there is so much more to come." Gut feeling tells me that this can be true. 


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