Fully 90 percent of human cells are microbial. This astonishing fact means that we are not merely human but a superorganism whose “microbiome” plays a major role in health and disease.
Despite decades of advances in medical technology, nearly 65 percent of deaths today are still caused by illness. Known as “non-communicable diseases,” this class of ailments includes heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, celiac disease, psoriasis, and many others. The biological factor that these conditions share is a dysregulated immune system, which can lead to chronic inflammation, which leads to illness. Through decades of research, Dietert (Immunotoxicology/Cornell Univ.; co-author: Science Sifting: Tools for Innovation in Science and Technology, 2013, etc.) makes the cogent and eye-opening argument that the microbiome—the collection of microbes that lives in our bodies and on our skin—is the arbiter of immune system homeostasis. This news is good, if unexpected, because it means that treatments, including pre- and probiotics (which naturally “re-seed” the body with good bacteria), have the potential to reset one’s microbiome and restore systemic health. In his comprehensive addition to a growing body of literature about microbial health, the author engagingly outlines the biology underlying this symbiotic relationship. He discusses not just how the microbiome affects nearly every aspect of our health, from food allergies to depression, but also how factors including overuse of antibiotics and lack of nutritional diversity have resulted in skyrocketing numbers of chronic illnesses. Presenting empirical data from several lines of research, Dietert converts scientific findings to practical health advice regarding everything from birth practices to geriatric medicine. He argues that “rebiosis” is feasible no matter one’s age and that a shift toward a healthy microbiome may usher in a new era of individualized health care resulting in a dramatic reduction of NCDs.
A book in which the author’s fascinating, well-researched ideas regarding holistic health may presage a paradigm shift in medicine.