The human microbiome has become a hot topic, spawning wide-scale interest in gut health and digestive issues. Research has even associated this community of bacteria with depression, obesity, chronic fatigue and autism. To help you better understand this microbial ecosystem, we have curated a list of the best books on the topic. Whether you are looking for an accessible introduction to the microbiome or a slightly more in-depth guide, we have something for everyone.
Table of contents:
- Gut By Guilia Enders
- The Gut Stuff By The Mac Twins
- 10% Human By Alanna Collens
- Eat Yourself Healthy By Megan Rossi
- Gut Garden By Katie Brosnan
You play host to trillions of bacteria in your gut, collectively known as the gut microbiome. Whilst we can shape this microbial community through diet, lifestyle and antibiotics, it can also shape us.
When this inner world is balanced and diverse, it can reduce inflammation, support the immune system and potentially even improve mood. When it is not, it can lead to an imbalance known as dysbiosis, something associated with depression, inflammatory bowel diseases, obesity and chronic fatigue.
The microbiome is a living, dynamic ecosystem made up of around 2000 species of bacteria. Think of it like a rainforest, in which lots of different species of bacteria work together to keep the system stable; if there are too many of one species or not enough of others, the forest can suffer. As such, both diversity and richness are key microbiome health markers.
Research continues to show that the microbiome is central to human health, redefining our understanding of diseases, nutrition and potentially even some mental health conditions. In light of this, the microbiome has become a hot topic and a booming wellness trend. To help you understand the microbiome a little better, we have curated a list of the best books exploring microbiome science and digestive issues. Let's take a look:
by Giulia Enders
Guilia Enders has an infectious passion for the gut, an organ she has dedicated her life to studying. Saddened that we have neglected this amazing system within, Enders book is a one-women PR campaign seeking to earn the gut the glory it deserves. Frankly, there is no better person to take on the task.
Enders explains everything from how pooing works to how our gut flora influences mood and metabolism with unmatched clarity and enthusiasm. The result is a book that is as entertaining as it is educational.
Enders makes the complex science both digestible and fun, using powerful analogies to communicate her points. For example, Enders likens our microbes to Instagram followers, noting that we should seek likes from our bacteria, not our friends when choosing a meal. Likewise, she compares the microbiome to a forest that we must cultivate, pruning weeds and planting flowers.
Each chapter is brought to life by humorous illustrations, and the book abounds with amazing facts which will leave you in awe of your bowels. For example:
- 95% of the serotonin we produce is manufactured in the gut
- In the industrialised world, 90% of nutrients comes from what we eat, whilst 10% comes from our microbes
- There are more bacteria in a gram of faeces than there are humans on earth
In short, this book is an in-depth, entertaining and accessible introduction to both the digestive system and the microbiome.
by Alana & Lisa Macfarlane
The Mac twins are a charismatic duo spreading the importance of good gut health. In 2012, they took part in a twin study comparing the microbiomes of identical siblings, headed by leading researcher Tim Spector. Despite sharing almost all of their genes, they discovered that their microbiomes were unique and only 40% similar!
The twins became deeply fascinated by the trillions of bacteria that call our gut home, embarking on a journey of discovery. Armed with a passion for gut science and a gift for communicating complex science, they have written an accessible guide to the microbiome with contributions from a host of experts.
Each chapter contains an interview with a renowned microbiome researcher discussing their specific field. What it lacks in depth it makes up for in breadth; the book explores everything from skin health and faecal transplants to the hierarchy of evidence and the gut-brain axis. Some chapter titles include:
- bullsh*t bin
- other sh*t you should know
- microbiome 101
- biology (and a dash of music)
As you can tell, its science with attitide.
Funny, lighthearted and laymen friendly, Gut Stuff makes the science of the microbiome accessible to everyone. You will also find a "Gut glossary" at the back of the book, explaining the most important terms in gut research. You can't do much better if you want an accessible introduction to the microbial world residing in you.
by Alanna Collen
After contracting a tropical infection in the jungles of Malaysia, Alanna Collens was prescribed a long and intense course of antibiotics. Whilst this cured her infection, Collens soon noticed that her immune system was compromised, and she suffered a host of new symptoms.
Suspecting this was because antibiotics had depleted her microbiome, Collens became fascinated about the relationship between humans and the bacteria we host. Curious, she began to explore how our microbial hitchhikers are associated with everything from autism and depression to obesity and autoimmune diseases.
Along the way, Collens explores the case of Andrew Bolte, a young man whose mother suspects repeated antibiotics during his formative years may have played a part in his autism. To investigate this idea, his sister is currently experimenting on a machine designed to mimic human digestion, called Robo-gut.
Collens builds a compelling case throughout the book, arguing that allergies, obesity and other diseases plaguing the West are due to disturbances in our microbiome.
In summary, Collens book is slightly more technical than the others on this list, but it is a compelling read and references fantastic cutting-edge research throughout. Moreover, Collens handles the science expertly and traces the threads of evidence like a hound chasing a scent.
by Dr Megan Rossi
Eat Yourself Healthy offers several assessments alongside personalisable gut health action plans to help manage digestive issues. The structure parallels an appointment with Rossi in her nutritional clinic, containing self-assessment questionnaires followed by strategies to address digestive problems. These include bloating, IBS and acid reflux, among others.
Rossi dedicates an entire chapter to food intolerances in which she offers guided elimination diets to detect sensitivities and actionable strategies to manage them. Last but not least, Eat Yourself Healthy contains over 50 gut-friendly recipes to nourish your body and soul.
These include crowd-stoppers like vegan BBQ wings and delicious snacks such as cinnamon-spiced popcorn, all of which will please both you and your microbes. Look no further if you want an interactive, educational, and empowering book on digestive issues.
*by Katie Brosnan
Though marketed as a children's book, Gut Garden appeals to both young and old. The book is full of beautiful illustrations and engaging text, tracing food from gums to bum and introducing us to the trillions of microbes it encounters along the way.
This book brings the microbiome to life and is a perfect gift for visual learners. It would also make a great accompaniment to some of the more in-depth books on the list.
Until around 20 years ago, the gut microbiome was severely neglected. As we now know, the microbiome trains our immune system, helps us to digest fibres and even produces essential vitamins. While the research is in its infancy, the microbiome is also associated with various health issues and appears to play a role in everything from autism to autoimmune disorders.
The best way to improve gut health is to understand how it works in the first place. With the books above, you will gain essential insights into how the gut impacts health and how you can nourish it. We also have tons of articles on this blog to further expand your knowledge!
☝TIP☝ Take the Atlas Microbiome Test and get a window into the world within. With 22 health reports, you’ll discover the balance and richness of your gut bugs, including how this can impact your overall health.