Human Sciences move fast. The Microbiome – our community of bacteria – is one of the areas of more recent insight and ongoing discovery. The title of this book reflects that on a cellular basis bacterial cells in our body are much greater in number than human cells, roughly for one human cell the author explains there are nine bacterial cells, mostly in our digestive system, but also on the skin, around the genitalia, in the mouth, amongst other places.

The books subtitle is “How Your Body’s Microbes Hold the Key to Health and Happiness” and this is the key – for a long time scientists ascribed a hostile role to bacteria, yet the majority of them are friendly supporting digestion, protecting us from pathogens. Their value becomes even more evident when we find that the health of our microbiome is implicated in mental health – autistic spectrum conditions through depression with a lot in between.

Yet our approach in the modern world is still societally toward eradication of the few harmful bacteria – broad spectrum antibiotics, anti bacterial wipes, others – and the problem here is that whilst controlling harmful bacteria is important, we end up inflicting damage on the good ones. And let’s be clear here, infection control and antibiotics in appropriate circumstances are life savers. Penicillin changed the health of the world for the better. However like a lot of things there’s a balance between excess and deficit, action and inaction.

There are, however, ways we can improve our microbiome, and in particular it’s all important diversity, and the author touches on some of those – hint “fibre”.

A fascinating book which sits between general interest and science, combining readability with information. It will be of interest to anyone in health sciences, the moving body, or with an interest in well-being.

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